Monday, December 11, 2006

Everybody Can Play: An Advergame Overview

Advergaming is an emerging medium in which companies can promote their brand, product, or cause. While some companies can benefits this method of marketing other must be careful when utilizing advergaming. There are several factors that should be considered when using advergames.

The most common use of advergames is to promote a brand or a product. Lifesavers Mini Putt Adventure Game is a great example of this. The product is displayed and incorporated throughout all 18 holes of the game. The game effectively shows all the different flavors Lifesavers has to offer in an engaging golf game.

Advergames can also be used to promote a service. Air Invaders is a game that promotes Lennox’s air filtering service. The game lets players dispose of germs in the air which is one of the main services provided by the company. The game also gives facts about airborne germs in the game. As a result players will want to make sure their house is eradicated of such germs and in turn the will contact Lennox for their services.

Advergames can also be used to help promote social causes. In other words, advergames can be used like public service announcements. The American Cancer Society (ACS) sponsored Smokeout Café. This game was designed to inform people about the ACS’s program to sell orange wristbands whose proceeds will go to directly back into the ACS to inform people about the dangers of smoking. Snackdash, sponsored by the School Food Trust is another PSA oriented advergame. The game informs kids about eating healthy and avoiding junk food in a fun and interactive manner.

The entertainment industry has been making good use of advergames. The band INXS came out with the advergame called Bang the Drum to promote an upcoming album. The game actually lets players drum along with INXS’s popular song I Need You Tonight. NBC also made an online version of their new game show 1 vs. 100. This advergame was not only was a great promotion for the 1 vs. 100 game show but it gave NBC another medium in which to plug some of its other shows.

The most important characteristic of an advergame is its relevancy to the product that the game is trying to promote. BMW’s X3 Adventure is a great example of this. In the game players can actually test drive the X3 on various terrains. While the game is loading players can actually view some of the features that the vehicle offers. The Weather Channel’s Driving Game: A Four Wheel Adventure is another example of a relevant advergame that it similar to the BMW game. Players of the game can type in their zip code and then drive in the weather conditions that their particular area is experiencing at that moment. Players can check the weather in their area and at the same time they can practice driving in those conditions.

Not all advergames do a good job of making the game relevant to the product. Beck’s Beer promoted a Tetris like advergame that had absolutely nothing to do with beer. In the game players had to organize pieces of unattractive furniture into rows. The only way that someone could connect the game with the product is a logo for Beck’s Beer that seemed to have been haphazardly added to the page.

Advergames can be time sensitive which can be a very effect tool if utilized correctly. M&Ms Dark Chocolate Presents 50 Dark Movies Hidden in a Painting was an advergame that was perfect for the Halloween season. The game promoted M&M’s candy coated dark chocolate. The game board was a picture depicting several scenes that represented 50 different scary movies. The object of the game was to guess which scene represented which scene. The timing of the game seemed to be perfect. With Halloween approaching people tend watch more scary movies making this game extremely appropriate for the Halloween season. The National Christmas Tree Association also understands the concept of timing with advergames. Their game the Attack of the Mutant Artificial Christmas Trees encourages people to buy real Christmas trees instead of artificial tree. The game is perfect for the holiday season since it was available right around Thanksgiving during the time when most people are on the hunt for a Christmas tree.

A good characteristic of an advergame is to encourage repeat visits. Flushed Away Underground Adventure is an excellent example of this. The game was released a few weeks before the release of the movie Flushed Away. The game is actually a collection of mini games. Every few days a new game would be released. Players earn points for each game the completed as well as letters in a secret message. The game encouraged players to visit the game site multiple times so that they could play the newly released games as well as earn points and letters for the secret message. This game also is a great example of stickiness. Players are encouraged to stay on the site for a long time because they have several options of game they can play.

Advergames can also be used to obtain information about its players. For example and require players to register in order to play some of their games. The registration process is free for most sites like this but for most sites players must give some type of personal information. This information usually doesn’t go much further then age, zip code, and gender. This information can be useful to the site because it lets them know what types of people are playing which games, how often they are playing, and even what time of day they are playing.

In conclusion advergaming has many dimensions which should be considered before being used by a company. First of all the company should have a brand, product, service, or cause to promote and they game must be relevant to what it is that is being promoted. Advergames can also be used to collect consumer information. The time of year an advergame is made available can also have major affects on its success. A good advergame also encourages people to visit it multiple times and to stay on that particular site for as along as possible.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Santa needs a shave

I've always wondered what Santa would look like without a beard. Now I have the chance to see at Shave Santa. This website allows visitors to shave Mr. Claus using a Remington Comfortselect electric razor. At first I wasn't sure if the site could be considered an advergame, but I figured that just because there are no points awarded or no direct competition, that doesn't mean its not an advergame.

After creating a style for Papa Noel players of the game can post their pictures in a gallery and compare your shaving skills to others. Players who post their picture are then entered into a contest to win a free Remington Comfortselect electric razor. There is even a link to get a coupon for a Remington Razor.

I was quite impressed with Remington for this advergame. It's a great idea for the holiday season. Let's say for example some children are looking online for what to get their father. After playing this game I have no doubt that they would be just as excited to get Dad a Remington Comfortselect Razor, as he would be to receive one. Well done to Remington for sponsoring a relevant Christmas advergame that is sure to increase brand awareness.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

HBO's Entourage yells FOOORE!

One of the reason I love HBO is because of its fantastic series. Among my favorite are Sopranos, Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and maybe my most favorite, Entourage which is about the life of four friends living in Hollywood, one of which is a movie star. I was looking at HBO's website to see when my favorite series would be starting with new seasons. While on the Entourage page I noticed a game on the page called the Entourage Rooftop Golf Game. The game is taken right out of an episode of season one in which the shows four main characters hit golf balls from the roof of their Beverly Hills mansion and try to hit the houses of celebrities like Toby McGuire and Pierce Brosnan.

I enjoyed this game for many reasons. First of all, it totally fits in with the show. Like the characters from the show, the object of the game is to hit as many objects as you can. Some of the objects include a paparazzi helicopter, a nice young lady sunbathing, and the gardener. During after each shot audio clips directly from the show are played and they fit in perfectly with the game.

The only thing I would change about the game would be to actually show the characters hitting the golf balls. They should give players the option of choosing their favorite character to play as. This would make the player seem more involved in the game and give the game that much more relevancy to the show. Other then that I liked the game and can hardly wait for the new season of Entourage to start.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

While looking for Christmas themed advergames I stumbled upon this game sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA). Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees is a great way for the NCTA to promote the sale of real Christmas Trees as opposed to fake ones people buy in department stores.

In the game mutant Christmas Trees that are either orange or purple and have crazy faces robot arms pop out of their boxes. The object of the games is to hit as many of the trees with snowballs as you can. But be careful not to hit the elf or you may loose precious points. In between rounds your score is shown on a small window that also has interesting facts about Christmas Trees on them. For example, "real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty-five percent of artificial trees are manufactured in China."

Overall I thought that this game represented the NCTA well and got its point across. That being of course that real Christmas Trees and better. I also liked that game provides facts about Christmas Trees and a link to the NCTA's website. The only suggestion I would make is for the game to somehow show actually show and incorporate real Christmas Trees into the game. Instead of having the player try and not hit an elf, the player could try and not hit a real Christmas Tree. Or the game could some how award Christmas Trees instead of points. The game should have at least shown a real Christmas Tree on the window that gives players facts. By incorporating real Christmas Trees the game would actually be showing the product it’s promoting and it will give players the oppurtunity to see just how beautiful a real Christmas Tree can look.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Hole in One For LifeSavers

Ryan of Fuel Industries suggested this game to me. He suggested a couple of games his company produced for Candy Stand. LifeSavers Mini Putt Adventure was one of the games Ryan suggested and I was quite impressed.

I was doubtful of the game at first because I've played a few mini golf style online games and thought it would be difficult to incorporated the company’s product (especially LifeSavers) into the game. After playing Mini Putt Adventure (MPA) I soon found out how wrong I was.

The first thing you'll notice about MPA are the graphics. (Which reminds me to play you have to download this Virtools 3d Life plugin, but it doesn't take to long.) They are as good as some Playstation 2 games that I've played, and that’s good as far as advergames go. The characters are bright and very lively and entertaining during the game. Are 18 holes and each are named and themed after flavors of LifeSavers. For example, hole 1 is called Wild Cherry and hole 11 is tropical fruits. Not only that, but if your golf ball ends up hitting one of the LifeSavers Candies throughout each hole you can earn bonus points. The holes themselve are quite original and some are quite challenging. I liked how each hole was themed after a LifeSavers flavor. I was very impressed with how LifeSavers was incorporated into the game. Another feature of MPA are the mini games. About every four holes or so players participate in mini games some of which include Longdrive and Pinball. This keeps the game a little more interesting.

Kudos to those folks at Fuel Industries and Candy Stand, Mini Putt Adventure is a hole in one on my scorecard.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Turkey Games

Thanksgiving is next week, so I thought that this would be a perfect oppurtuinty to to do a blog about a really awesome thankgiving advergame. Sadly though, I'm not sure if one exists. After doing a bit of reasearch I did find a few advergames that related Thankgivng but none I was very impressed with. Probably the best game a I found was called Turkey To Go. Gamers of Turkey To Go play as a bald turkey who scoots around a table clother to collect his feathers. Forks also fly around the table cloth hindering the turkey's feather collecting.

While the game is mildly amusing, it gets boring pretty quickly. Every level is pretty much the same so the game isn't very engaging. And why would you want to help a turkey collect his feathers? If anything, I want to play a game where I can pluck a turkey, cook a turkey, and/or eat a turkey. Isn't that what Thankgiving is about? An advergame would the perfect oppurtunity for Butteball. Some one may be doing some online research about cooking a Thankgiving meal and come across an advergame by Butterball. The game could then lead players to recipes and a guide on how to cook a turkey. While I have yet to find such a game on Butterball's website there is hope for the future. Christmas time usuually holds ample oppurtunities for marketers to launch holiday themed advergames. So... instead of doing all your Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving, I'd get a head start on all the holiday advergames.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hungry? Try Some Snack Dash.

The School Food Trust is an organization whose aim is to improve the quality of school food and promote the education and health of school children. The most exciting part of the website is an advergame called Snack Dash. If you've every played Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Genesis then this game will seem very familiar. The game is played almost identically to Sonic except for a few differences. The object of the game is to make your way through a school and collect as many healthy snacks (specifically green apples, carrots, and bottled water) as you can well keeping up enough momentum to get through the school as fast as possible. Along the way the player runs by "baddies" including a badass with an ice cream cone, a little girl with a lollipop, and what appears to be a snack machine from hell. The player also comes across junk food along the way. The junk food literally makes the player fat and slow. To become "healthy" again the character has to do pushups.

I'm am thoroughly impressed with this games educational value as well as its relevance to its product. The School Food Trust takes every opportunity within the game to promote its cause. The game promotes healthy food by having point awarded to the player for collecting fruit, vegetables, and bottled water. The game also conveys the message that junk food is bad and makes you fat and slow.

Overall, I enjoyed and appreciated this advergame... or should I say "edugame." I was however disappointed that after only two levels the game ended. I would have liked to have seen a few more levels. The two levels are quite short and easy. A few more would not only be way more fun, but players of the game would stay on the School Food Trust website for longer.