Feature: Rethinking Traditional Advertising Methods
Think print, broadcast and direct marketing methods are dead? Guess again, says
Videogame Marketing and PR author Scott Steinberg, who finds new life in old
campaigns with help from DIRECTV's Steven Roberts, National CineMedia's Doug
Gellerman and Alloy's Deborah Gitell.
by Scott Steinberg on Tuesday, July 01, 2008
OK, you've caught me... I admit it. Like most game marketing pundits, I'm often guilty of excessive
prognostication and – always on the lookout for the next big trend by virtue of the profession – frequently
quick to write tried-and-true advertising vehicles off.
As loyal readers know, I've long been a champion of viral, video-based, grassroots and interactive
strategies, which have, in just the last three years, begun to supplant national television, radio and print
promotions as the global brand manager's favorite methodologies du jour. And why not? The move towards
creating compelling content designed not so much to shamelessly flog product as invite users to connect
with featured attractions in an organic manner that promises direct, tangible benefits is hardly an alarming
phenomenon. But shame on me (and, of course, the rest of the critics) for not having the good sense to pop
a couple Vicodin, unknot our panties and speak up sooner.
You see, for all the talk of monthly periodicals' demise, SEO's impending reign, the downfall of FM stations
and television's inevitable implosion, we, err, sort of forgot to mention one thing: essentially that, despite
posting up ratings far from the halcyon days of the pre-TMZ.com era, mass media outlets such as ABC,
CBS, CNN and NBC; Time, Newsweek and USA Today; and even regional Cineplex chains still generate
the kind of audience numbers most interactive entertainment execs would give their last USB cable to
connect with. Tactics may be changing, with custom tradeshows, advertorials, movie-type trailers and cover
wraps replacing simple page ads and product giveaways. But as an industry, we're far from prepared to
divorce ourselves completely from traditional advertising placements, or shift marketing dollars exclusively
onto the Internet.
quot;Something most game marketers miss about the broadcast space is the need to keep messaging pointed
and simplequot; - Steven Roberts, DIRECTV
To wit, column after news brief after investigative report may continue to bemoan the death of old-world
media. However, as any marketing director can attest, its core vehicles still remain one of the best ways to
rapidly generate mass awareness amongst PC- or console-owning audiences. Hence, although blogs and
video aggregators deliver great bang for the buck and generate tremendous street-level buzz, they continue
to be promotional outlets that most core publishers have yet to wholly embrace, let alone fully commit to.
Thus the reign of high-profile primetime spots for titles like Grand Theft Auto, Madden and Halo rolls on.
And so, just as I humble myself before my new daughter, who hasn't met a pair of slacks she hasn't enjoyed
redecorating yet, I willingly prostrate myself before the industry-at-large and beg forgiveness. As the
following executives – representing the television, motion picture and direct marketing industries,
respectively – are quick to remind, we should all think twice before acting so rashly and completely writing
these businesses off.
Suffice it to say that they may not generate the same kind of headlines in 2008 as rich media providers,
online networks or widget creators, but thanks to new technology, changing tastes and increasing audience
fragmentation, let's just say they're far from out of the game.
Vice President & General Manager, Games and Strategic Initiatives for DIRECTV, overseeing broadcast
ventures like 24/7 interactive games channel Game Lounge and the internationally televised Championship
Gaming Series professional league.
quot;Broadcast TV is absolutely not dead – just changing. Popular as gaming is, you can't look at entertainment
in a vacuum... you have to consider the overall mass-market. There are 120 million television homes out
there, with millions of people who just want to be entertained in the same way they have for the last 50
years. NFL football still puts up huge ratings every Sunday, and millions still tune in to watch live music and
sports – you don't see that on an Xbox 360 console.
quot;True, television has to evolve, and will become more interactive to engage subscribers... if that's what users
want. But what we're really looking at here in the immediate is developers/publishers grappling with a
question of increasing audience segmentation. Something most game marketers miss about the broadcast
space is the need to keep messaging pointed and simple. That doesn't mean downplaying key elements or
features that you want understood: Just presenting them in a straightforward, easily comprehensible way
that speaks to a specific audience. Implementing better virtual cameras into games would be a welcome
start... For broadcasters, it's very difficult to show different elements of a title in ways instantly conducive to
helping people understand what it's all about.
quot;It's also important to look beyond the 30-second spot. There's plenty of room for advertisers to tap into
broadcast vehicles, whether through televised competitions, interactive online program extensions or
product integration. Placing games front and center by showing a half-hour of screens, video footage and
people playing these titles makes sense. But what you really need for effective campaigns here is to build
elements of user interaction into your advertising and pair it with programming that's consistent with the
demographics of the game itself.
quot;It all comes back to basics. People won't skip an ad on a DVR or turn away to get a glass of milk if it's
compelling, the message is clear and it's telling you something that you want to hear. Creative doesn't just
have to wow either: It also has to make sense for the audience segment. While marketing can be fun and
have an edge to it, ultimately, for on-air placements, it's vital to make sure the message is very targeted,
specific and simple.quot;
Vice President, West Coast Sales for National CineMedia, North America's largest digital in-theater
advertising network, whose reach spans over 1350 theaters, 17,000 screens and 700 million viewers every
quot;For all the uproar surrounding the movie business lately, game marketers shouldn't underestimate in-
cinema advertising's power. Most media features a device (remote control, mouse click, radio dial, etc.) that
lets audiences tune unwanted messaging out. But at the theater, you've paid to be there, are a captive
audience and want to be entertained. This receptivity begets results if the creative is good: Recall scores
average around 60%, with categories like gaming actually soaring into the 80-90% range.
quot;Definitely, the big screen's sexy. Via streaming media, you can literally send ads for M-rated games to all R-
rated movie screenings in any given city; appear alongside only specific types of films; or deliver different
messages to different geographic markets on-demand. But publishers need to look beyond the most obvious
opportunities – lobbies can also be a marketing wonderland. Standees, banners, concession items... From
20-minute pre-shows packed with original, exclusive and entertaining content to game posters disguised to
look like cinematic counterparts, options for building brand equity are endless.
quot;Hollywood is far from dead. Are gamers going to see Shrek, The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean? Of
course... it's common sense. Research also shows emotions are magnified at the theater – and the same
holds for audience reactions to commercials as well as films. It's hard to argue with a dark room, a giant
screen and a group of people who've willingly paid to be there and want to see what's in store.
quot;Also note – 80% of tickets are sold on weekends, a time when people want to go shopping, and theaters
are generally located in shopping districts. Stick a retail discount on a box office handout, and you don't just
achieve grassroots interaction, or present a clear call to action. It's also conceivably the last message a
consumer sees before having to drive home past a Best Buy or Wal-Mart where your game's conveniently
Senior Account Executive for Alloy Media + Marketing, an agency acclaimed for its work with targeted media
programs that offer new spins on traditional methods for reaching specific consumer segments.
quot;People are more distracted than ever – advertisers need to cut through the clutter. You have to find ways to
surprise and entertain audiences... It's important to design options that let you really spend time with
consumers in a meaningful way.
quot;Consider core gamers. You can look at where they're hanging out – at fraternity houses, sports bars,
military bases, wherever – then discover ways to be there. It's even possible to reach players at school and
weave gaming properties into an educational message. These institutions appreciate it when game
companies can provide them with branded book covers, locker calendars or workshops that incorporate
these titles to teach lessons, just to name a few possible choices.
quot;Basically, you have to create options that make sense for the content and target demographic, then craft a
vehicle that fits. This could be a branded video game tournament, for example, or involve catching fans at a
sporting event and giving them things they can wear to the game. There are alternative ways to reach
virtually any shopper.
quot;It's crucial for publishers to connect with fans on a one-on-one level, because as excited as TV/film imagery
can make them, people want to go hands-on and try your games. To do so, you have to interface with them
on the street. Demos at malls, movie theaters, health clubs, etc. are essential to building buzz: There's a
direct link between samplers converting into purchasers. Experience is everything, and consumers are going
to be the strongest ambassadors for your brand – word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful in the enthusiast
quot;A holistic strategy is important, though: Alternative marketing should just be one part of a diversified tactical
plan. If I can see an ad for your game during Lost or American Idol, then it happens to be at a bar where I
can try it, it'll pique my interest... Suddenly, brand and buyer are making a meaningful connection.
Remember though, that these placements have to be unobtrusive. You can't invade someone's space – you
have to make kiosks, stands, booths, etc. – something that adds to, not takes away from, the entertainment
value of any activity or event.quot;
Scott Steinberg is the author of Videogame Marketing and PR and managing director of Embassy
Multimedia Consultants, which advises clients in multiple industries on the making, marketing and promotion
of PC and video games.