Advergames and gamification in the news

Shannon Forbes - Digifianz Marketing Analyst

Written by Shannon Forbes - Digifianz Marketing Analyst

 On 9/4/19 5:09 PM


Advergames are still a fairly underutilized resource and there aren’t actually many industry influencers, but there are a lot of people talking about games and their effect on marketing. 

Let’s take a look at these 10 advergame articles to see how the field is developing.

(This post is part of our 100 Days of Games for Growth 🎈 project. In this post, we employ Tip #19: The Industry Influencer Blog Post.)

1. Sneaky good: looking back on the Burger King advergames

First on the docket is one of my favorites, the strange, the memorable: Sneak King.  Brittany Vincent on Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM Now) reminisced that:  

When it came to advertising in the 2000s, Burger King was more than willing to let fast food fans “have it their way,” routinely serving up ads and campaigns as fresh as they’d have us believe its burgers were. The seminal chain restaurant had always opted for “edgier” humor to push product. 

Burger King knew that it wanted its advergame to be more than just blatant product placement.  One of the developers recalled that “we were to avoid creating cheap, generic Flash games with logos plastered everywhere, which is what many advergames had been in the past.”  In our post, The 3 levels of advergames, we go over why obtrusive logos in advergames aren’t effective and how an integrated game that represents your brand’s values, such as Sneak King, is the best way to go. 

Sneak King game with the King riding a motorcycle as part of advergames in the news

A key part of the success of Sneak King was the way the character moves - in that unique, King-like way.  In order to nail the exact mannerisms, the development team flew the actor (there’s only one, apparently) and the only “King head” in the world to London. 

In our post about 3 branded games that promoted food products, we dive beyond the game into its effect as a marketing tool.   From a marketing standpoint, Sneak King was an incredible success - it was attributed by Burger King's Russell Klein as being a key part of increasing sales by 40%!

Sneak King took a well-known company mascot and used knowledge of his unique way of speaking and moving to promote the brand continually throughout the experience because the player is “The King.” 

2. Why advergames can be dominant on social media - - lessons from Popsockets

This article from Forbes explores how branded games are a highly effective means of engaging customers. can be a good way for brands to cut through a cluttered promotional environment. The reason is pretty simple: in an era where adblocking or skipping has become common, advergames are a rare context in which a substantial majority of today’s consumers still actually like to see ads.

We agree wholeheartedly - consider how some websites allow you to choose which ad you’d like to see and/or give you the choice of watching one long ad versus various shorter ones.  These ads are more effective because you’re asked about your preferences from the get-go and given control over your experience.  You end up paying more attention to these ads because you were given agency over what you’d like to watch and when.

The same concept applies to advergames.  Your customer is choosing to play your game when it strikes their fancy - they’re not forced into playing as one is obligated to watch traditional ads.  We cover this topic in-depth in our post, Is your brand an obstacle for your customers?

3. Highly social, gender diverse, and age agnostic: Why brands must change their view of gamers

If you think that branded games only reach a small segment of your audience, you’re probably thinking of gamers of the past.

Forget the stereotype of teenage boys sat in their bedrooms hooked to their consoles; gaming is mainstream, mobile and accounts for more than half of the UK’s entire entertainment market.

The current gamer demographic is more diverse than you may have realized.  This Marketing Week article cited:

The survey of 12,000 mobile app users in the US, UK, Germany and France shows mobile gamers tend to be split 50/50 in terms of gender and are in their mid-to-late 30s on average. That being said, 66% of 18- to 20-year-olds say they have opened a gaming app within the past seven days.

What does this mean for marketing? Given the overwhelming global growth in players, brands need to get involved now or get left behind says Greg Carroll, commercial director for advertising in EMEA at games publisher Activision Blizzard, the owner of King. 

It’s clear that advergames are the future of marketing.  Part of the reason is the leaps and bounds of progress in accessibility of gaming.The accessibility of gaming means that whereas previously you needed at least £100 to buy a games console, now everyone has a games console in their pocket, Carroll adds.

Beyond the benefits of accessibility, branded games are a genius marketing tool to engage customers. 

Activision Blizzard conducted a neurological study assessing the behaviour of people while playing Candy Crush, which show they are in a heightened emotional state of arousal and essentially a “happier place”, meaning brands stand to benefit from enhancing this experience.

As in the second article from Forbes, the fact that you’re advertising to people while they’re taking part in an enjoyable experience you’re providing for them greatly affects their receptiveness. 


4. Why mobile games are more important to your brand than you thought

In yet another article from Forbes, the title says it all.  Branded games could be one of the most important aspects of your marketing strategy.  

Games no longer need to be complicated pastimes with extensive instructions to memorize.  

The diversity of games in app stores has multiplied exponentially in recent years, offering players a cornucopia of genres, including simple, hypercasual titles that require little training or commitment. If over half of mobile gamers are busy women who claim their No. 1 reason to play games is to relax, hypercasual games are a premium place for brands to advertise.

One of the keys to the success of advergames is your customers’ mood when they interact with your brand in this situation.

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Mobile gamers play to relax or to escape, so mobile gamers voluntarily check their negativity or distractions at the door, entering a mobile game with lighthearted, excited and receptive states of mind -- the perfect setting for an ad to create a natural, positive association with a brand.

You aren’t just giving your customers an entertaining experience by offering an advergame, you increase subconscious goodwill towards your brand because you’re associated with this experience.


5. Honda uses e-sports as a new marketing tactic to attract first-time buyers 

Here’s an example of a big brand taking advantage of branded games to entice and engage with potential clients. 

Honda’s goal is to meet young consumers on their own terms. The global e-sports audience is more than 450 million people, according to analysis firm Newzoo, and North America represents the largest market. That group is largely young, tech-savvy consumers who don’t interact with marketing in the same way as their older peers.

Rather than sticking with traditional ads, Honda chose to embrace e-sports to attract future car-owners. 

Millennials and Gen Z are the only generations increasing their share of car sales right now, and Honda is well positioned with those groups. Its Civic and Accord models are the top-selling vehicles for first-time buyers, according to the company.

Honda is a perfect example of a brand that knows its audience and how to connect with it.


6. What your brand needs to know about the burgeoning video-game streaming battle

Viewing others play video games is a hugely popular pastime - with associated big bucks.  Twitch has more than 15 million daily active users!  The site’s biggest star, video gamer, Ninja, earned 7 million dollars in 2018 from views of his Twitch and YouTube channels.  

The biggest news in video-game streaming is that Ninja just signed with the relatively new platform owned by Microsoft, Mixer.  

Twitch is the dominant player in the video-game streaming industry.  But Microsoft’s Mixer signaled that it’s serious about taking on the Amazon-owned juggernaut when it recently inked streaming superstar Ninja to an exclusive deal.

What does this mean for your brand?

On Twitch, outside brands can buy a variety of ad units such as video, display and even customized ad units. But with Mixer, there is no ability to buy ads directly. Instead, brands that wish to advertise on the platform must work directly with the streamer. 

These changes are shaking up the video game streaming world, with implications for the brands that take advantage of their popularity to advertise. 

7. Gaming on Twitter is a whole new playing field for marketers 

If you struggle to engage customers, you may want to consider the gaming communities on Twitter.  Twitter is a highly-effective arena for brands to interact with players.  

In fact, 42 percent of people of Twitter users follow gaming brands, according to a Twitter-commissioned study, demonstrating a desire to discover more as they lean into the conversations.

Twitter is an opportunity to communicate with customers on their own turf and in a way that they welcome. 

Twitter is opening the doors not only for a new generation of gamers but for marketers looking to engage with the most influential members of the gaming community… Perhaps most interesting is that these engagements often transcend the world of gaming. Tass (e-sports legend) also attracts some of the most devout soccer fans from across the FIFA leagues.


The quality of the conversations matters, too.  Twitter users are vocal and prolific:

On Twitter, gamers are open to sharing their opinions and aren’t afraid to tell it how it is. In fact, a Twitter-commissioned study found that 49 percent of gamers on the platform are more likely to share views and recommendations versus gamers on other leading social media services.

8. How one hospital improved patient safety in 10 minutes a day  

This hospital implemented a game to check in with the whole team at the beginning of the day and increase awareness of patient safety initiatives.  Using a simple card game, where different members of the team drew cards each day and had to answer the questions or observe something each day.

...the hospital’s performance on its patient-safety audits has risen, and caregiver job satisfaction has improved substantially, moving from 8.0 to 9.2 on a 10-point scale after staff began playing the game.

Not only did this exercise increase knowledge of the safety issues the hospital was working on, but it also had the bonus of increasing provider job satisfaction.  The patients were also reassured to see that the different providers knew each other better and functioned as a cohesive team. 

These results are wonderful and worthy of replication, but we would argue that this is more of a case of gamification than games.  Gamification is adding game aspects — competition, ranking lists, scoring systems, and incentives — to something that’s not a game.  The problem with gamification is that it forgets one of the most important aspects of games: fun!  We explore this topic in-depth in our post, Gamification marketing vs. games for marketing.

9. The history of gamification: from the very beginning to right now 

We aren’t the only ones talking about gamification - Growth Engineering published a history of gamification.  The timeline starts with the beginning of the Boy Scouts movement in 1908 and includes entries such as:

1999 – Fun is taken seriously - More and more people start to recognise the power of ‘fun’. Stephen W. Draper releases a paper suggesting that user enjoyment should be a major requirement of all software design.

2016 – Gamification Goes Viral (and no one Realises) - Pokemon Go is one of the most successful applications of gamification with over 800 million downloads. People who would normally turn their nose up at badge collection were out patrolling the streets searching for rare pokemon!

In fact, we would argue that Pokemon Go is gaming, not just gamification, since it involves gameplay - and fun! :

It’s much harder to spot gamification these days. Not because there’s less of it – but because there’s just so darn much of it. Gamification is everywhere.  What’s even more intriguing is it’s now got lots of different names, from behavioural design to engagement-focused experience.

While we appreciate the effects gamification can have, we still maintain that, in general, gamification applies game concepts to boring situations, without adding in fun.


10. Why video games is an opportunity for brands in China to level up  

This article takes a look at video game marketing in China, with a focus on luxury brands using advergames.  This is an important trend to watch because China has the world’s most video game players!  Gaming has become highly popular in China for various reasons, one of which is that:

In China, political censorship has shaped the artistic dialogue. In the country’s highly digitalized universe, video games construct an unreal world free of limitations and constraints, which is why young consumers have turned to the gaming industry for self-determination.

In an emotional economy where purchases are less about the product itself and more about how products make one feel, it’s no wonder that by marketing through their favourite games, brands can engage millennials on an emotional level.

In our post,  5 ways games increase brand awareness, we discuss the power of emotion in engaging players, and turning players into customers.  

In regard to sustainable growth and developing a long-term client relationship, the authors affirm that brands who are successful in doing so are the ones who can incorporate technology and emotion in their brand DNA to get closer to their target and their aspirations.

From multi-million dollar streaming video game stars to gamification, there’s a lot happening in the world of games.  More and more companies are realizing the power of branded video games to engage their audience like never before. For more inspiration, check out our post, A magical version of your brand!