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The Lost Boys Found: Marketing to Men Through Games

Why getting in the game can be crucial for companies.

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Video Games is an exciting world made out of pixels rather than atoms, but for the male 18-34 year old (we will call them the “Lost Boys”) it’s every bit as real. For brands who want to reach this lucrative market, the video game world is not just “real”–it has become crucial.

Over the course of the last decade, games have undergone a radical transformation. Faster technologies, more evolved plot lines, higher production values and meatier budgets have all increased the platform of games as the definitive entertainment of choice for the Lost Boys. Whether you’re in the hot seat of a Bugatti racing 100mph on the famed Nurburgring or in the line of fire against the Helghan Empire in the 23rd Century; it’s within these digital landscapes where the Lost Boys find themselves and where, increasingly, brands need to go to find them.

So how big are video games as the hot ticket ad platform to watch out for this year? How adaptable is it and what steps can entrepreneurs and business leaders take to become savvy in this space to get ahead of the game in this market?

Movie box office receipts have long trailed the juggernaut game industry that’s worth around $24 billion per year. In fact, the industry’s biggest franchise of 2010 Call of Duty topped $650 million in sales in the first five days of sales alone. The game has since surpassed $1 billion in revenue vs. $293 million box office receipts for Inception as an example, and has outpaced any of 2010’s top movie releases by a factor of 3 to 1. And these trends will continue to transform how businesses communicate to consumers. It will drive more and more audiences towards games and out from other forms of ad ready media, leaving gaming as the one of the most intuitive and effective channels to reach this market. More importantly however, is the connection and engagement gamers develop to the game product itself. This is what accounts for the tremendous re-plays of current games. While a film may warrant a 2-hour experience at the theater, a television show might garner an hour once a week for [30 weeks] a single blockbuster console game can garner 100+ hour play tail over more than 6 months and an online game can last years with 1000s of hours of play logged.

The business of video games has transformed the consumption of media itself for the Lost Boys. By blending multiple factors from different media formats into a single experience, games deeply immerse the user in the media itself–and keep his attention. For example, today’s games allow users to experience visually stunning imagery, akin to any glossy HD action flick; allow them to compete, comparable to sporting events; allow them to interact and communicate with their friends and share experiences and context, like in social media outlets; and allow for fantasy and catharsis in a way no other media can. This collision of experiences not only generates ‘stickiness’ for long periods of play time for gamers, but with a typical 42″ home theater set up taking prime placement in the living room–the impact of brand interaction is undeniable.

The above factors lead to unrivaled levels of engagement. Advertising in games can result in favorable metrics across all major advertising criteria. Increases as high as 34% in brand recall, 49% in favorability and 46% in intent to purchase–are all common place results for in-game advertising campaigns over other media channels among males. They are provided with an enthralling and fun ‘experience’ rather than being outwardly promoted to, and that’s one of In-Game Advertising’s secret weapons. By creating natural linkages between the game play and the advertisement itself, gamers consume and accept the advertising rather than feeling pestered, or intruded upon.

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Through the advent of what is known as “dynamic” in game advertising technology, and networks, advertisers can reach gamers at the press of a button across multiple games, formats, and locations. This allows for updated and relevant creative for games on a timely basis, with rapid changes, scaling and reporting available. This innovation has turned games into readily available media for advertising campaigns and has enabled advertisers to look to games as a full media channel for their promotions. Everything is in real time, by location and reflective of the real world, but through the innovation of technology, can be altered instantaneously. For instance, a digital billboard ad in a game can be altered to announce new information–such as the release date of a new film–instantly, or can be pulled if the campaign directions are changed. Good luck doing that with a billboard on the side of the freeway or a building.

So once you have found your way around the upcoming catalogue of 2011 game releases and gotten to know today’s games, the next steps to consider for a marketing campaign is how easily translatable it is in-game. Businesses who have dared to shift budget from television, billboard or online ad spend to in-game have already seen tremendous response. Furthermore, when the consumption rates of these traditional media are viewed against In-Game it can easily be understood as a better way to reach the Lost boys, versus losing advertising dollars chasing them in media they don’t use or pay attention to. Video games have evolved as one of the platforms that boast the most ‘engagement time’, as a recent survey suggested that gamers pick up their favorite games close to 9.5 hour a week.

Once in game, brands benefit from keeping the messaging concise, making a visual impact in their ad design and utilizing the full network of genres of titles available. It’s key not to confuse video games to online media, as the 3-D nature of the game world provides a much more interesting way to present a brand.

Aficionados of video games will know that game designers are now proactively looking to insert new tactics and real estate into the game’s story and worlds which will become a burgeoning trend in 2011. Of course, it’s in their interest to as in-game advertising will help budget some of the bigger franchises or even allow them to distribute their smaller online games for free to reach broader male audiences. Either way, businesses can now take better reigns of how to play their brand towards their target audiences of 18-34 year old men. The “Lost Boys” are now indeed found.

Alex Sood is the President and CEO of Double Fusion, the leading network for in-game advertising consisting of a library of hundreds of video game titles that has reached over 50 million unique users globally.

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About the author

Alex Sood is the President and CEO of Double Fusion, the market leading network for in-game advertising that services a library of hundreds of video game titles via cutting-edge ad technology. As President and CEO, he oversees the company’s sales, business partnerships and marketing across its privately held offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Toronto, Barcelona, and Melbourne

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