Video Game Advertising Needs Balance
Gamers can see a marketing ploy coming from a mile away. As advertisers imbue video and online games with ads and product placement, a certain degree of caution is advised to avoid backlash. If done incorrectly, it devalues the game and the characters within the game.
According to SMV Group's Play VP P.J. MacGregor, there's a right and wrong way to do video game advertising. The right way is to respect what he calls the "value exchange" between player and game. The marketing message should not disrupt this exchange.
In an email exchange MacGregor clarifies the "value exchange" approach to video game advertising, "...if Coca-Cola wants to extend it's association with the World Cup by connecting with the worlds most popular video game audience, placing billboards around the stadiums isn't going to cut it...but, if Coke offered the gamers a "refreshable" soundtrack (12 new music tracks that gamers can download into their game) and/or a massively multiplayer World Cup tournament (for cash/prizes etc.) in exchange for their presence/involvement in the game I tend to think that gamers will see that as acceptable...or perhaps even cool."
This approach dovetails with SMV Group Rishad Tobaccowala's creed toward consumers, "Consumers are god and marketers must pay tribute. In a sense, respect the consumer.
Furthering the "value exchange" proposition, MacGregor adds, "'Product placement' and 'advergames' aren't the direction that this space is heading - the medium is far more malleable and the audience is extremely finicky so it requires far more creative solutions. It requires that we 'pay tribute'."
With over 60% of all U.S. households playing one form of a game or another, finding acceptable methods to use this medium as a marketing channel become increasingly important.