What Are Advergames?
The name "advergame" comes from joining the words "advertisement" and "game". They provide a new, fun, creative solution for advertisers by merging advertising and gaming by integrating brand messages directly within a video game to help increase product or overall brand awareness.
Advergames are premium (usually free to play) game content as an engagement tool and usually come under the banner of content marketing. They are usually relatively small scale games with a relatively short play time commitment required.
What is Advergaming?
The verb "advergaming" is often used to mean the act of using video games as part of an ad campaign. This encompasses the full cycle from creative and production through to publishing and driving traffic.
History of Advergames
Advergames have been around in one form or another for decades. Early examples were sponsored commercial games for personal computers and consoles that included product placement and/or featured characters associated with a brand.
Now advergaming is more commonly associated with small scale video games directly commissioned as a brand experience, usually to tie in with one specific product ad campaign. These are usually published on the web or as mobile gaming apps.
When released on the internet, as opposed to an app based game, they allow easy access within the web browser from anywhere around the world, without having to go through an installation process. This helps maximise potential audience reach.
Confusion Between Advergames & In-Game Advertising
These two terms are often confused or defined as the same thing. However, there is a definite distinction between avergaming and in-game advertising.
Advergames integrate the advertising within the game itself. In fact the very best examples don't just include branding as an afterthought, they have a deep symbiotic relationship between play and advertising. This can be achieved by designing the whole game around an aspect of the business, or a specific product or service, in line with the campaign goals.
By integrating campaign messages and branding directly in the game, this allows advertisers to exposes players over the duration of the experience. It can also allow for more subtle and less annoying/intrusive advertising.
With advergames the game is usually created as an advertisement for the brand in question. So brands directly commission the production of the whole advergames to use as advertisements in their marketing. They then essentially take on the role of game publishers, publishing the finished game either through mobile app stores, or more commonly posting games directly on their brand website.
In-game ads, on the other hand, are not directly integrated with the gameplay, or attached to one game. This is where ads are embedded within games, which have no other connection with the brand.
In-game advertising usually takes the form of pre-roll video, or in game banner ads overlaid onto the game. Brands usually pay for ad space on a cost-per-click or cost per impression basis much the same as other forms of online display advertising. Each game usually contains multiple advertisements from different advertisers.
Advergames are most commonly produced as casual games deployed as mobile apps or as online games.
Development services are often offered to advertisers by web developers, digital agencies or specialist video game developers.
Costs involved in getting a custom advergame developed are literally sky's the limit. However, getting web based games developed with HTML5 and widely available video game engines, such as Unity have made it possible to streamline production and work within a wide range of budgets. This has made advergaming more affordable and opened it up to a much wider range of businesses.
Relatively simple, web based, custom casual time-waster (usually single level, with short gameplay time) advergames can be produced and released with a relatively modest budget. With more complex examples costing much more.
Promoting an advergame, to drive traffic, can also have a cost attached, particularly if ads (such as banners) are used to boost plays.
When Flash was the most popular web based video game development platform, new advergames could be easily distributed (using free and/or paid placements) across numerous online gaming portals to essentially take the game to players.
Making a game freely available in this way often led to many other websites picking up and posting it, increasing spread and ultimately traffic. Because of this secondary spread, advergames distributed in this way became synonymous with viral marketing. This led to the term "viral games" being used to describe them.
Since Flash has fallen out of favour online and the Flash web player has been phased out, advergames are not generally distributed in this way any longer.
Methods have changed due to the decline of Flash and driving traffic becoming less about distributed content and more about having unique assets in only one place. For online advergames this can be a company site, or a dedicated domain. For advergames delivered as mobile apps, this needs to be the appropriate app stores for the devices the game supports.
The business then needs to promote their advergame to drive plays, in the first instance, rather than the old method of taking the game to the players. Any viral spread then comes from people sharing a web link. This can occur on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, on personal blogs and websites.
Promotion can once again come via paid placements (advertising that links to the game) to drive traffic, or free/earned placements. Bigger brands also often integrate advergaming into their other advertising. For instance, featuring in TV or print advertising can be a great way to launch an advergame.
Earned placements (apart from player link shares) are usually gained through PR channels. As with most content, it's becoming increasingly necessary to integrate advergames into an overall business marketing plan. They can provide an excellent hook for a dedicated press release. This in turn can help get the business exposure in related media as well as drive traffic and engagement with the brand. Advergaming can also provide great SEO benefits, predominantly through earned web links, to ultimately drive further traffic to a company website via search engines.
Social Media Integration for Advergames
Modern advergames often include sharing buttons to facilitate sharing of the game between players. These allow quick and easy sharing of a link to the game (in some cases, along with player scores) on sites such as Facebook and Twitter .
Deeper integration can be achieved by integrating with gaming platforms such as the Facebook Games platform. This allows a fuller social experience by using features such as friend's scoreboards, invites, achievements and timeline posting to increase advergame visibility and drive traffic.
Target Demographics for Advergames
Although video games are often seen as child's play, nothing could be further from the truth. The average gamer is in their 30's and women are just as likely to play as men.
This makes advergaming suitable for most types of product, targeting a huge range of demographics, not just gamers or young people. As long as it's designed to appeal to the particular target audience, there's no reason why advergaming can't be suitable for all businesses.
Advergaming has come under fire in recent years for it's use to promote junk food to kids. This has largely been blown out of proportion. Advergames targeting children, although arguably at least ethically questionable in many cases, only make up a small percentage of uses.
Calls have been made for tougher restrictions on advergames that are aimed at children, especially with harmful products such as junk food, despite them already being regulated by the Advertising Standards Agency in the UK, in line with other advertisements.