April 11, 2010

Lessons for Advertisers from Gaming Humans love games. Games give us valuable clues about how customers think, act, solve problems, process data and assess value. Games are a fingerprint and a barometer of our culture. Marketers will increasingly need to draw upon the principles of gaming in order to understand, enable and communicate with a population that has integrated gaming conventions into their consciousness and consuming behavior. Games are a vital component of learning in our culture. From the military, to UPS to big business, games are used extensively for training, orientation and skill improvement. Almost everyone plays some form of online games. Gaming is the number one online activity regardless of demographic. Gaming culture has a keen influence on customer segments and our popular aesthetic. Consider these how gaming conventions suggest insights into consumer wants and needs. Persona Selection. Many games require players to create or select a persona or build an avatar. These doppelgangers project hopes, dreams and self-images of the people who choose them. Some reflect their current state of mind or self-assessment, others project fantasies and still others are random idiosyncratic choices. All give us clues about how to engage them. Level Setting. Players decide which level to start the game; in effect which level of skill or competence they feel. They are telling us where they are at and how they want to be engaged. Constant Choice. Consumers expect the freedom to pause, restart, and find alternative paths to the same goal. Self-directed activity is the norm everywhere except for traditional advertising where we still try to force-feed messages to audiences by interrupting consumers while they are doing something they like. Giving consumers choices increases rather than decreases attention to and engagement with commercial messages. Rewards. Players are motivated by rewards and rankings. At each stage, games reward performance, congratulate players and incent them to keep playing. Small incentives recognize individual achievements. Leader boards publicly display successful outcomes and set expectations for what it takes to win. Public recognition motivates a healthy segment of the market and establishes widely accepted norms. The challenge for advertisers and marketers is to find a way, without masquerading, to play along. Gamers need the flexibility to attack the problem their way. This has profound UI-UX implications and it validates the need to create a smorgasbord of commercial content that consumers can access according to their personal preferences and timetables.
Optimizing the 4th Screen In the last quarter of 2009, 237 million Americans 18+ were exposed to video out of home. Basically half of the country caught some or all of a video message in a movie theater, a restaurant or bar, a hotel, an elevator, a health club or at the self-service gas pump. And that doesn’t count those of us exposed in doctor’s offices or airports. Out of home video is almost everywhere and it’s reach is significant. Now the number crunchers at Nielsen have collected, compared and normalized data from these networks to produce a “Fourth Screen Network Audience Report” that not only puts out-of-home video on the map but creates a metric for media buyers to compare it with video delivered by broadcast, cable, mobile device or Internet. For example, you can compare viewers at the movies (84 million in Q4 2009) with the average audience for a primetime broadcast network TV spot (3 million in October 2009) and figure out that it would take 20 primetime ads to achieve the same reach as a month-long campaign in movies. These new metrics enable planners to translate the data and essentially compare apples-to-oranges. Comparing data should help build demand since these OOH media are much cheaper than other video delivery formats. The size of the audiences gets me thinking about the media in strategy and creative ways to craft messages and influence people in the course of their lifestyle flow. The big numbers imply that consumers expect to see video almost everywhere. OOH video is no longer an annoyance, an interstitial or ignored. Out-of-home digital video can be a reach extender and can play an increasingly diverse or flexible role in integrated advertising campaigns. Consider the properties of the individual place-based media: Elevators. The average exposure time is probably 60 to 90 seconds. Everybody looks at the screen though only a small percentage pays serious attention. It’s a great way to reinforce a brand name or logo or add frequency to a slogan or an offer. Nobody will write anything down so the creative burden is to grab 10 seconds of attention and implant a memorable idea. Seems like a perfect place to add frequency to a launch campaign or to burn in a competitive offer or claim. I can imagine coordinating it with a coupon drop or a promotion game (e.g. McDonald’s “Monoploy”). Hotels. These are a mixed bag of convention-oriented channels, local and cable re-distribution and dedicated hotel channels. Everybody flips through this stuff. Very few people pay close attention. Time spent with this media is probably measured in seconds. This feels like an image play solely to support event or convention activity or a pure low cost frequency extender. Bars & Restaurants. Often at or behind the bar, only a small portion of the overall audience sees or even notices the video. And while some clubs use re-distributed video or tune to select video channels to create ambiance or to set the mood, the amount of attention available for commercial messages is slim. The biggest value here is to present images of food or beverages available at the point of sale. It’s an opportunity to influence market share at the point of consumption and/or to target or reinforce lifestyle images with constituent audiences. Movie Theaters. Consumers are a captive audience. They have nothing to do but watch the screen in the semi-dark theater for at least five minutes before the previews roll as people jockey for seats or load up on popcorn and soda. Coke, with a huge vested interest in fountain share, has used this medium to great affect. Frequency and category exclusivity allow people to remember offers, 800 numbers and URLs. Local merchants have used this slides and static images to make walk-in, discount and ticket stub redemption offers. The simplest use, often adopted by TV networks, is to run the TV or cable tune-in promo in the theater. It’s a cheap reach and frequency extender and can be demographically targeted by movie. Similarly I can imagine creating a longer spot (2 minutes) to flesh out product details, attributes or benefits in coordination with regional or national TV, Cable or Internet buy. I’d try integrating mobile and movie delivery of the same spot to drive traffic for local businesses or to drive tune-in or voting for reality TV shows. Health Clubs. You’re on the bike, the Stairmaster or the treadmill watching the screen. You’re not going anywhere. And you are open to almost anything to distract...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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