Don’t be surprised next time you see Barack Obama’s face pop up after your last game of online Battleship — the president is appearing in video games yet again.
As part of an overall upswing in political video game ads, NPR reported that Obama’s advertisements will be featured in Madden NFL 13, Pogo.com, mobile Tetris and 14 other games as Election Day nears.
Exactly four years ago, the Obama team did the same thing and advertised in 18 video games during the fall. Studies found that gamers who saw the political ads were 120 percent more likely to have a positive reaction to the candidate.
It’s a smart move for candidates, as many of the ads can be targeted at a specific demographic based on information gamers give when setting up an online account. Location is huge — political ads are geared toward people in swing states, the NPR report said.
Politics and video games are crossing over in other ways, too. Microsoft is rolling out an interactive polling feature that will let people viewing presidential debates on Xbox Live answer questions and see poll results in real time on the screen. (Editor’s note: Tune in to GeekWire Wednesday morning for opinion pieces on the two presidential candidates)
But back to the video games. The popularity of in-game advertising has been increasing for the past few years and industry advertising spending is expected to double from $3.1 billion to $7.2 billion in just four years. Though it still trails behind certain types of online ad spending, which generated $15.36 billion last year, there is still plenty of opportunity.
What makes in-game video game ads unique is the user engagement. Unlike watching TV or surfing the Internet, playing a video game is user-controlled and a much more interactive experience.
“Gamers are fully immersed with their attention in that game,” said Mark Donohue, senior vice president of media for WildTangent. “The attentiveness is higher, the focus is higher and the interactivity is available.”
Redmond-based WildTangent has a multitude of games that feature different types of in-game advertising. The company trademarked its BrandBoost advertising platform two years ago, about the time when video-game advertising really started to take off.
Donohue said that BrandBoost, which “set the standard for the best way to serve an advertiser into gameplay,” operates on the principle of value exchange. Essentially, gamers are offered free content like gameplay or virtual items. In exchange, they are exposed to some type of short advertisement and then receive the gift.
For example, in Crowdstar’s (close partner of WildTangent) Happy Aquarium, you are given the option of feeding your fish. If you accept the offer and then opt into an in-game advertisement, the fish comes at no cost if you sit through the ad.
“You have to feed the fish and keep it alive — that’s the purpose of the game,” Donohue said. “The fish food has a dollar value so it has tangible, understood value to the user and the advertiser has brought it to them in lieu of watching the message.”
It’s a very non-intrusive method of giving value to gamers with advertising. Donohue said that in-game video interruptions can have an adverse affect and cause customers to dislike a product because of the annoyance factor. Value-added advertisements, however, are different.
“Advertisers can bring that additional element of gameplay and it is a win for the game developer because it’s a second revenue stream,” Donohue said. “It’ can also help monetize users who may not be yet converted to purchase gameplay add-ons.
“It’s a win for the game developer, a win for the user and a win for advertisers.”