Advergaming, considered to be one of the newest marketing and advertising strategies, is rapidly becoming the darling of the advertising industry. Though the term “advergames” wasn’t coined until 2001 in a Wired magazine’s “Jargon Watch” column, advergaming as a marketing tool is actually older than most people realize.

The first real advergame was a customized videogame incorporating brand messages and was distributed on floppy disk by American Home Foods to promote the Chef Boyardee brand during the 80’s. Advergames are used to promote products or services, organizations, and even opinions and viewpoints. Today, with the advent of the internet, and smaller, faster processing chips used in computers, cellular phones, PDAs, and interactive television programming, advergaming has grown into a formidable industry.

Advergaming is generally categorized in three different ways. In the first category, companies provide interactive games on their websites, hoping visitors to the site become engaged in the game, thus spending more time on the website and becoming more familiar with a brand or product. The second category is generally recognized as games that are created by groups or organizations for commercial, political or educational purposes, and then published and sold as any other game. For example, the United States Army sponsored a game called “America’s Army” in an effort to increase recruitment. The third category includes games that promote products, brands, or services within the game itself. For example, an interactive baseball game might have banners around the field that promote Coca-Cola®, or a football team might be the “Tide® Titans.” The advertising is similar to a character in a movie holding a can of Red Bull®, or stopping for coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts®.

Advergames aren’t just for kids, either. In a 2004 study performed by Comscore MediaMetrix, 25% of the gamers on PCs are 35-44 years of age, 25% of gamers playing free online games are 25-34 years old, and 33% of those who play premium games are 25-34 years old. Additionally, income varies among the age groups.

Unlike television commercials, advertising and marketing within advergames is not perceived as an intrusion by the players. Gamers are voluntarily interactive, and the promotional materials contained within the advergames are viewed as simply part of the game; this makes the gamers a part of the marketing action rather than sideline observers. Repeat visits to websites via the internet or cell phones are high among advergamers, and as a result, product or brand recognition and loyalty is also high among the interactive players. And advergamers regularly spread the word about games they particularly like to friends and family. Additionally, because players can access advergames during work hours over the internet, a greater segment of the population can be reached in a time previously considered untouchable by advertisers.

Copyright (c) 2006 Scott Heath

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