Mitch Davis On The Spot

You have Aussie Mitchell Davis to thank for real-world ads that have been invading fantasy-world videogames lately. Davis’ New York-based company Massive has a plan to make ads in games as common as outdoor ads in real life. The former executive at Britannica.com, 43, has already placed ads in games for Motley Crue’s new album and is currently developing other campaigns aimed at 18- to 34-year-old men. By the fourth quarter of this year, Davis expects to have 40 titles in Massive’s network of games and has created in-game ads for clients including Universal Music, Intel and Honda. Q: What is Massive’s mission?

A: Our mission is to become the No. 1 male media network. Videogames have eclipsed other media as the dominant form of entertainment amongst 18- to 34-year-old men. So they’re spending nearly four times as much time on a nightly basis [on videogames] than they are watching TV. I think viewership on TV is down to about 27 minutes, and they’re averaging about 2 hours on videogames.



Why do you think gaming has exploded so much in the past couple of years?

Certainly gaming continues to get better and better and better, not only in terms of game design and quality, but also in terms of the machines that they’re played on. The gameplay now is fully immersive, very exciting, very interactive and compelling. And the market’s gotten to a point where it’s a mass-market appeal. And you know, more people are playing games, and the social aspect is there as well. So multiplayer gaming and massive multiplayer gaming have really started to take off, and that has brought in a whole new group of gamers as well.



What technical advances do you see happening soon that will change gaming and branding in games?

First, we have technology to do everything from full sound and motion to 3D object replacement within games. That’s an area of development over the next 24 months.



What does that mean, exactly?

Advertisers will have the ability to change 3D objects in games in real time using our technology. So for instance, a car company could dynamically change a car in multiple games in our network. If they launch a new car in October, and another car in November, we would change that dynamically across our network of games. Gamers could virtually test drive a car in a game.

What kind of videogames do you play?

I like stealth action games like Splinter Cell and a lot of Tom Clancy … Grand Theft Auto and San Andreas, which is pretty much the same game. I’m playing Swat 4, the new title from Vivendi Universal Games that we’re in. We play all kinds of games here.



How many hours a week do you play?

Not near as much as I used to. If I played three, four hours a week, that would be good for me. But then I’m kind of fully occupied.



You have a stepdaughter. Would you mind if she played for hours a day?

Sure, obviously the younger they are, the more I’d prefer to see that there are educational outcomes from the game. And I think that’s a huge growth opportunity if you look at games like Rome or Troy, for instance, that had educational context. I know that there are folks at Harvard University who are looking very closely at how you can use gaming to teach kids about all sorts of different subjects … because it makes learning fun.



What media would you say that you compete with? Who are your competitors?

I think that videogame advertising primarily competes against broadcast television. We see a long-term trend over the next four or five years … a movement of TV dollars into videogames, which offer a more compelling and interactive and high-impact experience for advertisers and gamers alike.

What do you say to critics who think there shouldn’t be any advertising in videogames?

When we were in the early stages of building out the network, we did a lot of research on what gamers would think … over 90 percent thought advertising would improve gameplay. Gamers have overwhelmingly embraced advertising because it adds to the realism.



What’s the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

To really build up Massive and go for the in-game advertising industry in general.



What about the dumbest business decision?

I play golf, and years ago I bought the rights for Nicklaus Golf Schools for the Asia Pacific. Which was a great fun thing to do, but it wasn’t a good business to be in.



What would be your dream assignment?

Guitar tech for [guitarist] Joe Satriani.



Are you a guitarist?

I’ve played guitar since I was 8 or 9. Played professionally for about three years out of college, and then I got a real job.



Who’s one person you’re dying to work with?

No specific individual, but the development team on Halo 2. Phenomenal

game developer.



What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Redundancy.



What do you have on your nightstand?

About 12 books, which I’m reading simultaneously. I’ve got a book on creativity, I can’t remember by whom; I’ve got a book on the history of ideas by Mortimer Adler.



What’s the most important thing you learned from your parents?

Integrity.