Selling through Computer Games Isn't Child's Play
Carter, Meg, The Independent (London, England)
BRITISH children will be playing computer games ratherthan watching television this Christmas, and companies anxious not to lose out are promoting their products through computer game software.
The Sun, the pizza delivery chain Domino's Pizza and the Leaf UK brand Fizzy Chewits are the latest companies to target young consumers this way. This month they launch a new game, Snapperazzi, featuring the adventures of a paparazzo photographer from the Planet Dirt who must take "big-money" pictures on the Planet of the Page Three girls Planet Mental and Planet Royal.
The game was devised by the Sun newspaper, with Domino's and Chewits as sponsors, and all three feature graphically in the action through a deal co-ordinated by specialist software promotions agency Microtime Media.
"The aim is to target a youth audience that is increasingly difficult to reach through television," said Microtime's managing director, Daniel Bobroff. His company has so far developed 18 games featuring sponsors' brands in either the landscapes or signage of compute and video games.
In August, Walkers Smith launched One Step Beyond, its second game featuring Colin Curly, brand spokesman for Quavers. The first game, launched last year, achieved a 30 per cent reach among targeted five to 14-year-olds, which is higher than the average for a Saturday morning network TV show.
Such sponsorship, or product placement, is effective for a number of reasons, Bobroff believes. "This is a medium that merges the message with the medium by default." Players pay close attention to the action so branding does not have to be heavy to strike home, he said.
Association with a high- quality game can enhance a brand's image among youngsters. And it also has a tangible benefit for consumers - reducing the game's retail price, Bobroff says.
Research conducted earlier this year by Carrick James Market Research showed that eight million five to 19-year olds have a console or PC at home and 87 per cent play regularly.
Ian Zak, joint managing director of ales promotion consultancy Business Development Partnership, believes computer games offer significant potential. "This is a very exciting area no one can afford to ignore. It merges all media - books, film and TV," he said. "It builds a relationship with the target audience in much the same way that Sonic and Super Mario do - it speaks the kids' language."
However, there is more to it than putting a brand into any old game. "Game play is critical," Mr Zak said. "There is no point in featuring a brand or product unless it integrates with the game. …