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When In-Game Advertising Goes Too Far

By BKV in Media Strategy on September 2nd, 2010

I've never had a problem with advertising in video games. Long before I got into this career, I remember looking at all of the small details of Turner Field in an old Nintendo 64 game. All of the signage throughout the park was recreated cleverly to reflect the actual sponsors. I say "cleverly" because this was before the advertisers ever paid the publishers. So what I knew as the UPS sign that sat on the right field wall was recreated to resemble the trademark brown along with the letters "ESP". As time went on, and advertisers began paying for their ads to be in games, the reality factor only went up. I welcomed having real, accurate banners throughout the stadiums. In-game advertising was presented in a way that was nonintrusive and enhanced the overall experience. Enter Madden '11, where it goes way too far. madden ad For many, the release of Madden signals the start of the NFL season. The regular season is typically a month away, fantasy leagues are starting to get organized, and here comes the new Madden to help fill that football void. Where Madden '11 goes wrong (and this isn't a game review, but an advertising review), is the inclusion of spoken ads. Announcers in video games are repetitive enough, after a big play or score I don't need to hear [please read in your best annoying announcer voice], "Let's take a look at the stats of the drive, presented by Verizon." Past games would have that Verizon logo up on the statistics screen but that never bothered me. I don't mind, seeing a sponsor's logo 8-10 times a game, but hearing it-that's a different story. Imagine hearing, "Matt Ryan to Roddy White for 54 yards and the touchdown, presented by Verizon," at the end of every big play. It would be absurd and immediately takes you, and the magic, out of the moment. And let me reiterate, I'm very much for in-game advertising. The Doritos bus parked outside the stadium at the start of the game, banners that pop up over the score ticker during the game, even the Old Spice chime that plays when you make it inside the Red Zone-I have absolutely no problem with any of it. I'm not an angry person by nature, but hearing, "Presented by Verizon," in my $60 game just infuriates me. And the reality of it is that these feelings aren't targeted to the game's publisher (EA) but to the advertiser (Verizon). I want Verizon out of my game and out of my life. So as in-game advertising continues to expand, let's be mindful of how it's presented. As an agency, it's our job to find the right opportunities for our clients. The key for in-game advertising is to keep it subtle and clever-i.e. keep it quiet. And EA, I want my "Turbo" button back.