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Advertising in video games

By Liam Datwani, Account Associate

The advertising industry is always changing, and in recent years real advertising has been entering the video game universe more and more. A company known as Versus has been getting companies to send them coupons and product codes and pay developers to distribute these to their own clients. There are even racing games with race cars covered in ads paid for by actual companies. With this expansion has come some unique opportunities and several contemporary issues.

In almost all video games, gamers normally see billboards that have real products replaced with parodies or fake products. It is something very common in TV shows, but has been changing bit-by-bit because advertisers are realizing that placing ads in shows are profitable. Now video games are doing the exact same thing.

A recent article in Ad Age discussed how the new FIFA game had the virtual athletes promote Coca-Cola. This idea works organically because the characters in the game do not know they are in a video game. The characters see the game world as the real world, and even if we know that the game is not reality, elements that makes the game more real makes players love the game more. Sports games like this work on realism. The whole game is supposed to be about living out your soccer fantasy and in professional soccer you deal with sponsors. So, having a character talk about and being sponsored by Coke only adds to the realism.

However, like everything, there is always a downside. CNN wrote an article about how, after a lengthy trial, Gatorade would no longer be able to use an app game to disparage water and promote their product. In the game, Usain would speed up after grabbing Gatorade, but slow down when he hit water. So, the court decided that this was unethical and illegal because it gave the false claim that Gatorade was better for people then water.

This is what can happen when products push a bit too far. However, video games are still new to the advertising world so companies, like Gatorade, are trying to see what the limits are. On top of that, companies still have to start figuring out if video game spots are even effective. Do gamers use the coupons that are distributed? Do people like Coca-Cola more after seeing it in a soccer video game? These are questions no one has the answers for yet, because there is little data.

All of this takes time and effort to figure out. As more companies start investing in placing advertising in video games there will be more information to study. In the end, video game advertising may not be worth the money, but it is both fun and insightful to see how advertisements and video games can work together.

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