From Social Media Today | BY ADAM BLUMENTHAL

The majority of Americans and more than 500 million consumers worldwide play social and mobile games. Digital games are the newest mass medium. Every demographic plays.

Players play often and for long periods of time. Most social-mobile games are free, with opportunities to buy items within the game to enhance the player’s experience. Who do you want to reach? Millions of them are playing a game right now. Learn how to play nice, and marketers can collect tremendous rewards.

It’s Not a Novelty. It’s a Marketing Innovation

Social-mobile games and marketing campaigns have the same goal: welcome consumers into a free compelling media experience and invite them to buy. No medium beats digital games when it comes to the most important marketing metrics of engagement, loyalty, and revenue.  Games are designed for stickiness and the marketing-monetization ecosystem works so well for successful games, that brands ought to understand the model and the opportunities.


Two Opportunities to Consider

1) Deliver Ad Units in a Game

Marketers can buy in-game ad inventory to deliver videos or display ads inside a game. Despite the often-disruptive presentation of in-game ads, the results are impressive. MediaBrix recently analyzed over 1 billion impressions across 100 ad campaigns that ran in social and mobile games. For ‘traditional’ online ads, click-through rates (CTR) average around 0.2%. MediaBrix found that ads delivered in social and mobile games had average CTRs of 3.0% to 11%, the latter when the ad offers the incentive of some in-game treat for the player.

The metrics notwithstanding, I have two issues with this form of in-game advertising that many gamers share: 1) It’s a bummer when the game pauses to play a poorly presented ad that looks nothing like the cool world of the game; that’s old media feeling clunky in a new media space; and 2) is there real marketing value in a quid pro quo exchange of view the ad and we’ll give you a treat?

The more advantageous marketing opportunity is a branded experience that is immersed in a game played by the people you want to reach. This form of marketing goes beyond the click, into rich engagement that can bridge from the game to the real world.

2) Be the Game

Be part of the game, not just thumb-tacked to it. Seek out creative solutions directly with game developers where you have the opportunity to design a seamless integration with the game that players will value as part of their play. According to a Harris Interactive study from 2012, this strategy is consistent with the immersive, interactive ads consumers prefer in social and mobile media.

Some Examples

P&G’s Bounty paper towels were available as a virtual asset in Restaurant City. In addition to more than 2.5 million players interacting with the virtual product placement, Bounty saw more than 500,000 new likes on their Facebook page.

Cascadian Farms blueberries were the first branded crop available to FarmVille players. Players planted 700 million virtual Cascadian Farm blueberries. Cascadian Farms had a 550% lift in unaided brand awareness, and an increase in real blueberry sales of more than 25%.

Diageo built their own social-mobile game around Captain Morgan. Captain’s Conquest places consumers at the helm of a ship, fighting virtual battles against rivals. So far more than 400,000 players have spent an average of 15 minutes in a fun wrap-around consumer-brand engagement. More than 3 million virtual battles have taken place in the game, and more than 2 million players have taken action outside the game to check-in at local drinking establishments. For months Captain’s Conquest was one of the top-ranked adventure games in the iTunes store.

Ready to Play?

Marketing in digital games gives us the opportunity to move beyond counting clicks. With a huge market and unique engagement opportunities, it’s a good time for advertisers to realize the value of being in a game. It’s your turn.