In-Game Advertising Results

The following article has been written by a fanatic researcher that conducted research about the effects of in-game advertising. I hope you enjoy it!

Even though billions of dollars are spent on in-game advertising each year and everyone in the industry has an opinion on how to use in-game advertising, very little is actually known about the actual effect of in-game advertising. In the study for my thesis I’ve tried to find out more about what in-game advertising can actually do for the advertised brand.

It was already known that in-game billboards can have an effect on memory: if you have played a game, you can sometimes remember or recognize the brand that was advertised in the game. Though this is a good thing if you want to create brand awareness, it is not a particularly spectacular finding, especially considering that not everyone could remember or recognize the advertised brands. Far from it in fact; the results indicated that in-game billboards were usually poorly remembered and recognized, suggesting that in-game advertising is not very effective at all. This seemed to justify the current cynicism that professionals have about in-game advertising, which I encountered both in news articles  and in personal interviews.

However, in-game advertising can do more than just make you remember or recognize brands: simple billboards along the track of a racing game can also influence how you feel about a brand. A handful of studies indicated that if you let people play a game with billboard advertising in it and you ask them how they feel about a couple of brands afterwards, they’ll be more favourable towards the brands that were advertised in the game!

According to the psychological theory of Dual Attitudes people do not just have a single opinion of something, but people can have two opinions of any given object at the same time. And these two opinions (in social sciences we speak of attitudes) are not always the same: people have both a conscious or explicit attitude and a subconscious or implicit attitude. One of the best examples to illustrate this with is modern racism: hardly anyone will actually admit that they’re racist, because they know it is wrong. So when you ask them if the complexion of your skin should matter for how you’re judged on a job interview, they’ll tell you that it shouldn’t matter; racism is wrong. In practise however people often subconsciously act in a racist way – perhaps because black people are often associated with crime and educational disadvantages. This is why a black person may have less chance to be hired for a job than an equally qualified white person.

Knowing that in-game billboard advertising could actually change someone’s conscious, explicit attitude towards a brand, I wondered whether this was also true for their subconscious, implicit attitude. So I set up an experiment where I asked people to play a racing game for 5-10 minutes and complete some tests afterwards. They did not know what I was studying and they did not know that half of them saw in-game billboards with brand A, while the other half of them saw brand B on the very same billboards. I could then measure their implicit attitude with an IAT (Implicit Association Test).

In the IAT participants had to complete a series of tasks in which they had to categorize positive and negative terms and brand pictures. For example, participants could be shown the word ‘beautiful’ and if the category ‘good’ was shown in the left corner of the screen, they would have to click the left key. For parts of this test, participants had to categorize both good or bad terms and brands to the left and right corner. For example, participants could have the category ‘good’ and ‘brand A’ on the left side and ‘bad’ and ‘brand B’ on the right side of the screen. In this case, the participants would have to assign good terms and pictures that have to do with brand A to the same category (left). If you are a fan of brand A, you’ll have an easy time assigning good evaluative terms and pictures with brand A on it to the same category and you’ll be able to do so very quickly. If you are not a fan of brand A, you’ll have a harder time placing them in the same category and you’ll be making more mistakes and react more slowly. By pairing both brands with both good and evaluative terms in different parts of the test, this test can figure out which brand is the favourite.

According to the IAT, people prefer the brand that they’ve just been exposed to in the game significantly more than the other brand. In previous psychological studies, researchers have already found out that the implicit attitude can play a big role in influencing actual behaviour. Especially at times when people don’t really have the time or aren’t in the mood to think too much about what they’re doing, the implicit attitude will be the main thing to dictate what people actually do. This means that because you’ve played a game with an in-game advertisement for brand A, next time you’re in a hurry and in the supermarket and you want to grab a bottle of soda, you’re more likely to grab a bottle of brand A.

Though, interestingly, this effect only occurred for participants in the condition in which they had to play the game on an easy difficulty where they had to race three rounds, as fast as they could, but without traffic to avoid and opponents to beat. In the condition with the hard difficulty, where they had to avoid a lot of traffic and try to beat their opponents, participants were not influenced by the in-game advertising. It did not matter what brand they were exposed to, the results of the IAT indicated that they had no significant preference towards either brand.

As to why in-game advertising only has an effect on a lower difficulty I’m not sure yet. There are two plausible explanations: it could be that it requires so much attention to play the game on the hard difficulty setting that people no longer have the cognitive resources to be able to process the in-game billboards. And without processing the billboards, your implicit attitude will not be changed. The second possibility is that because participants were enjoying the game on the easy difficulty setting, they could subconsciously associate their positive experience to the in-game brands. And perhaps they did not have as much of a positive association on the high difficulty setting because they enjoyed it less, because they were more frustrated.

Encouraged by the interesting results, I am already working on a part 2 of this study. This time the focus will be more on comparing the effects of the explicit attitude to the implicit attitude and to find out which explanation of the effect of the difficulty level works best.


Joël Bosch

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Recruitment through games?

This Danish company  was looking for good front-end developers. Of course these guys like to play games as well, so they started an in-game promotion with posters in the free online game Team Fortress 2. Check the video to know how it worked and how many applications they got!

Of course the american army has been doing so since 2005 and it has proven to be their most effective tool to find new recruits! You can read more about that on my blog here:


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Sims 3 Branches out with Diesel!

Another example how Diesel stays cool where other brands are watching and wondering how they should… In the past 15 years in the digital era as a marketing and advertising professional I have been part of both Atari and Diesel and witnessed loads of tie ins with games and brands. After featuring Katey Perry in Sims 3 it’s now time for my ex-employer Diesel (the Italian clothing brand) to get their hands dirty in Sims, or should I say: ‘build their brand further in the digital era’…?

The latest Diesel collection has been made available in Sims 3 after partnering with Atari back in 2001 with Driver 2 (my Atari-days before I was asked to come to work for Diesel), later Devil May Cry 2 (as a special feature if you played through the game) and a virtual shop in PlayStation Home to spice up the looks of your avatar. It’s now Electronic Arts that wants to spice up the life of the Sims.

A really cool and relevant way to build the Diesel brand amongst millions of women worldwide and it enables them to show the brand spin offs like Diesel furniture and wallpaper as well! Way to go Renzo Rosso and his team!

For more information, check the Diesel website: 


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Nielsen proves in-game advertising increases SALES with 24%!


In-Game Advertising in EA Games Lifts Brand Sales

First Time Research Connects What Consumers See in-Game with What They Buy In-Store

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Sep 14, 2010 — Electronic Arts Inc. today revealed results from a study conducted by The Nielsen Company which shows the degree to which brand advertisements within video games can boost real life sales. The study, commissioned by EA on behalf of Gatorade, shows that in-game advertising increased household dollars spent on Gatorade by 24%, and offered a return on investment of $3.11.

The study focused on households that purchased at least one of six EA SPORTS(TM) titles: NHL(R) 09, NHL 10, NBA LIVE 07, NBA LIVE 08, NBA LIVE 09 and NBA Street Homecourt. Gatorade had a variety of product placements within the games including arena signs, players’ water bottles, score updates and other call outs.

The study was based on Nielsen’s US Homescan panel of more than 100,000 households, representative of the US population, including a subset of Homescan homes that scanned video game UPC (Universal Product Codes) barcodes. The scanned barcodes were matched to a reference library of more than 14,000 video game titles. Nielsen compared the households that purchased at least one of the studied games before and after Gatorade branding was integrated into the games (the test group) with households that didn’t purchase one of the games (the control group).

These test and control group homes are projected out to the broad Homescan panel by matching them with the larger Homescan household universe based on similar purchase patterns and demographics in order to achieve a statistically reliable sample. Finally, the sales impact of Gatorade advertising was measured by analyzing and comparing Gatorade purchase behavior between the households that had and hadn’t purchased the games that carried Gatorade advertising.

This is the first time that this type of sales lift analysis has been done for advertising within video games. The study is the result of work undertaken by EA and The Nielsen Company to help marketers better understand the potential of advertising in this space.

“Nielsen’s study is a milestone for interactive entertainment,” said Elizabeth Harz, Senior Vice President of Global Media Sales at EA. “For the first time, advertisers are able to link the value of their in-game marketing or sponsorship to actual sales. Now brands can feel confident adding gaming as a core media channel for their advertising.”

“Video games are a deeply engaging consumer experience,” added Gerardo Guzman, Director, Media Product Leadership for The Nielsen Company. “Bringing our industry accepted ad effectiveness understanding to video games is another way to help marketers understand how consumers respond to advertising across different environments. This should help optimize the impact of and derive a return on media investments. In this case the story is simple – dollars put into video game product placement result in more retail dollars.”

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Ingame advertising: Base-x


The Dutch Royal Airforce has developed a game called Base-X and uses in-game advertising in Battlefield 2142 to promote this. In my opinion it would have been much more effective to have a Modification developed in BF2 or America’s Army like we proposed together with Power Unlimited some time ago…

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Virgin Games – McDonald Land – 1992


And another classic – US only I think… McDonald Land…

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Pepsi Invaders Advergame – The first advergame ever!


This is probably the first advergame ever… originally on Atari 2600 I believe.
Great mocking by Coca-Cola towards Pepsi. I wonder when Pepsi will strike back?

Call me if you want some great ideas! 😉

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adidas Originals – Star Wars™ Cantina 2010

Snoop Dogg with a light saber, before enjoying the soccer WC match… in Star Wars? What does this have to do with Adidas?

It’s fun though…

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Burger King… or Burger Town?


I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 the other day (like approximately 70 million people worldwide) and noticed that the Burger Town logo looked just like Burger King! 😉 This happens a lot in games, but I still don’t understand why brands should not want their logo on this building? If you can reach 70 million people and add an extra element to the game (eating a burger for extra health for instance), this should create positive energy right?

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Rainbow Six Vegas – Axe Can Easter Egg (HD)


A good effort to add some extra fun to a game. This easter egg of Axe reveals a mini video showing ‘fake bloopers’ of spy – agents.

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