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  • 1. 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
  • 2. 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. Steven Roberts 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.
  • 3. 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; Doug Gellerman 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 year. 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.
  • 4. 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 stocked.quot; Deborah Gitell 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 gaming community. 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
  • 5. 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.