By Eric Anderson, VP Business Intelligence
More and more, I hear in-game advertising mentioned along with search, display, and email as part of the digital marketing platform available for marketers to communicate with online consumers (you can throw mobile in there as well, but really that’s a variant of search and display). Yet, when compared to search and even display, in-game advertising lacks some of the compelling things that make search so, well, compelling.
- Direct Response. An important differentiator for search among all ad platforms is driving quantifiable ROIs through direct response. Upon seeing a search impression consumers can (and do) respond by clicking and interacting at the time of the impression. Current technology limits consumer’s ability to directly respond to in-game impressions. More importantly, consumers just aren’t likely to leave mid-game to respond to that impression. This makes tying any consumer response to in-game impressions difficult to capture and measure.
- Immediacy and Optimization. Since any post-impression action taken by in-game consumers is latent, assessing the impact of those impressions takes longer. Understanding how well any campaign is working therefore takes longer and limits the ability to make on-the-fly adjustments important for optimization. Search campaigns, on the other hand, can be evaluated and adjusted daily or hourly if desired.
- Engagement. Search benefits greatly from the fact that queries are user-initiated. Searchers are already vested in that subject and as a result are more open and receptive to advertiser’s message. In-game consumers are immersed in another activity (playing a game) and are actively seeking solutions or answers that can necessarily be answered by in-game messaging. Consider the volume of ads & signs lining NASCAR speedways, the drivers who are cruising along at 200 MPH aren’t looking at the ads. This is not to suggest that in-game ads don’t drive brand awareness, studies have shown that they do, but there’s additional clutter to navigate.
This chart, taken from Google Trends, shows the search activity not just at key points such as game releases, but throughout their development leading to release.
- Brand Limitations. If people search for it, then brands with some relation to those searches can find paid and natural search campaigns rewarding. Search has broad appeal and application for virtually any brand, whether direct response or brand awareness driven. In-game advertising, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy that luxury. Extreme care must be given to insure that any in-game message is contextually relevant to the game environment. For example, placing ads for Ford trucks may work in Grand Theft Auto, but would be very disruptive to say, the fantasy setting of World of Warcraft.