Tie your ad to a Selena Gomez virtual makeover game and position your brand nearer a tween girl’s heart. That’s a gender-specific version of a theory being tested by Lego, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Hollywood film Mirror Mirror and other advertisers. Working with Dutch company Spil Games, such brands are increasingly targeting tweens with “advergames” and video ads that roll before an online game starts.
Michael Cai, a social gaming researcher for Interpret, said this advertising niche, which originated a decade ago, is on the uptick as adolescent and adult consumers are trading away their TV time to play digital games like never before. “The penetration of games among tweens and teens overall is extremely high, and will become even greater as smartphones and tablets become more [prevalent],” he said.
Spil Games, which is Europe’s answer to Zynga or Rovio, claims 43 million monthly active girl users aged 8 to 12 worldwide, with 7.6 million living in the U.S. The firm offers 4,000 games in 19 languages, targeting tweens and teens with free-to-use online properties like GirlsGoGames.com and games like Selena Gomez Makeover and Pet Party.
There’s games for boys, too, such as the Lego-sponsored Heroica: The Adventures. Since adding sharing features to its games during the last year, the company says that average time spent has lifted from 38 minutes to 78 minutes.
For an effort only running in Europe, per Spil Games CMO Oscar Diele, Lego’s advergame has been played hundreds of thousands of times during 2012. “We open up our platforms and help advertisers [develop] their advergames,” he said.