Old Spice Seeks Gaming ‘Experience’

NEW YORK Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice is hoping to reach young male consumers through video games, but in a new campaign won’t place messages in the games themselves. Rather, the advertiser is seeking to enhance the experience outside the game.

The Old Spice Experience Challenge leans on Xbox Live’s Gamerscore system, which rewards players for achievements in Xbox Live games, such as advancing past a level or registering wins against others. Through a partnership with Xbox community site 360Voice.com, P&G created OldSpiceExperienceChallenge.com, a destination where gamers can create custom challenges for friends and win prizes.

Microsoft’s Massive and startups like IGA are offering advertisers opportunities to repurpose ad creative inside games, a business that’s expected to reach nearly $1 billion by 2011, according to The Yankee Group, but Old Spice is not leaning on that tactic in this push.

“A lot of times advertisers look at games as a medium and they look at gamers as eyeballs,” said Matt Story, director at Play, part of Publicis Groupe new media consultancy Denuo, which created the program for Old Spice. “They’re just taking their same assets and putting it into a gaming environment. That’s where you’re seeing a lot of backlash.”

Instead, Old Spice is looking to build on the gaming experience with Gamerscore, often used as a social currency among gamers, according to Story. By enlisting this and using the grassroots appeal of 360Voice.com, which hosts the competition and will promote it on its site, the brand should be able to achieve authenticity with tough-to-impress gamers, he said. In addition to placements on 360Voice.com, Old Spice will run ads on other gaming sites in the coming weeks to promote the effort. It will not advertise the campaign on Xbox.

“We wanted to do it with a partner who was in the trenches,” Story said of 360Voice.com. “We didn’t want it to be a standard media buy.”

Old Spice learned from earlier efforts in crafting the seven-month-long campaign. In February, it worked directly with Microsoft to launch an Xbox campaign that enabled users to win prizes based on completing predetermined tasks, such as access to an Xbox Live game and Old Spice T-shirt. While the campaign was a success, some participants complained that it was too tilted to hard-core gamers. To change that, this competition lets users create their own competitions.

“Now you’re not competing against the whole world, you’re competing against your buddies and friends,” Story said.

As an impetus to get participants to recruit others, Old Spice will increase the value of the user-created competition’s prize based on how many participants are recruited and the length of the challenge. Old Spice provides a list of possible prizes, from $20 retailer gift cards to a $150 Xbox 360 HD-DVD player. This peer-to-peer recruitment will supplement media buys that build awareness, Story said.

In addition to small media buys on gaming and lifestyle sites, Old Spice is doing blogger outreach to get gaming blogs to talk up the campaign.

For Old Spice, the top-selling deodorant but lagging player in the newer body-wash category, reaching young male consumers is critical in the face of recent gains Unilever’s Axe has made in the market, thanks in large part to irreverent, often lurid marketing. In response, Old Spice launched its “Experience” brand push last January, crafted by independent Wieden + Kennedy.

“Old Spice recognizes their key consumers are video game players,” Story said. We all know gamers aren’t the stereotypical guys sitting in his basement playing games all days, but video games do make up a significant part of their life. This enables [Old Spice] to create a connection with that audience and reward them for something they do on a regular basis.”