Magazine article Newsweek International

Police! Freeze! Do You Accept Visa? with Online Games, Product Placement Ads Can Cater to Different Players at Different Times

Magazine article Newsweek International

Police! Freeze! Do You Accept Visa? with Online Games, Product Placement Ads Can Cater to Different Players at Different Times

Article excerpt

Byline: Kasia Gruszkowska

You are the world's best undercover agent on a secret mission behind enemy lines. You've got your state-of-the-art weapon, body armor, night-vision goggles--and minty-fresh breath, thanks to Airwaves chewing gum. Wait a second--chewing gum?

Welcome to the world of high-profile videogame advertising. Videogame makers began putting real products in their games about a year ago, mostly as fixed advertisements--products featured on billboards or as props in the game--and advertisers have embraced the new medium. In Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, agent Sam Fisher has to retrieve a message from a certain Sony Ericsson cell phone in order to move forward in the game. The firm's soon-to-be-released CSI: Three Dimensions of Murder has cops solving a crime by making use of Visa's fraud-protection services. Music also lends itself to video-game ads. Ubisoft has placed one advertisement for a band in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and plans to do more.

The rise of online games means that game makers can change product-placement ads to cater to different consumers at different times--more like ads in that other video medium, television. For example, videogame advertising firm Massive, based in New York, coordinated a campaign for Warner Brothers in which online gamers playing Ubisoft's Splinter Cell saw ads for "Batman Begins" that were timed to when the movie was being released in local markets. Last summer, Funcom's game Anarchy Online featured audio ads triggered by the player's avatar. Walking past a billboard ad for a movie, for instance, triggers an audio promotion for the film. Similar ads will soon appear in Sony Online Entertainment games Matrix and PlanetSide.

Driving the trend is a change in the demographics of video-game players. The average gamer is not so much a teenager as a young investment banker with above-average education and income. …

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