Overload Of Game Ads Could Defeat Purpose

A new report released by Mediaedge:cia analyzing in-game advertising cautions against marketers potentially flooding the gaming universe with ads, as it also throws some cold water on a few of the more exuberant spending predictions for the industry.

Expectations for the burgeoning in-game ad space have risen precipitously over the past year, particularly as companies like Massive Inc. have launched networks that offer the capability of serving live ads within games played with an Internet connection.

The Yankee Group forecasts that in-game advertising will reach $800 million in spending by 2009, while Massive CEO Mitch Davis claims that ad revenue will skyrocket to $2.5 billion by 2010.

However, MEC’s report, “Playing with Brands: Engaging Consumers with In-Game Communications,” which praises the effectiveness of well-executed ads, warns against marketers forcing messaging into games. It is based primarily on commentary from gamers, some of whom cited those well-executed ads. According to the report, “using games simply to ‘reach’ or interrupt people cannot be regarded as an effective use of a channel with such potential.”

Instead, the ads need to “enhance a game’s alternate reality,” said the report, with the best actually making the game better. This means creating highly customized ads for individual games, which makes it tough to execute an ad buy on a massive scale—and for the ad medium to grow quickly. “Taking an ad formula and applying it across categories and brands … that’s not the way to go,” said Fran Kennish, director of strategic planning at MEC, who added that some in-game ad spending estimates may be overstated. “You may end up doing more harm than good.”