Brand advertising shouldn't be in the game. It should be the game, says agency Proelios
Brand advertising is the big dollars, but those big dollars are still more often spent in the pursuit of shiny TV campaigns or movie product placement.
One company is out to change that, however.
A joint venture created by German developer Fishlabs (which has already developed successful mobile games for Barclaycard and Volkswagen), and UK consultancy Character Communications, Proelios labels itself a 'brand gaming agency'.
We spoke to head of client services Kristien Wendt to find out more about its approach.
Pocket Gamer: Proelios is a joint venture between Fishlabs and Character Communications so what does each partner bring to the table?
Kristien Wendt: We first met at the end of 2011 and were very excited with the potential of Fishlabs' brand games, especially the measurement and brand engagement benefits.
I worked in advertising before joining the games industry; measuring the effectiveness and success of advertising campaigns was never an exact science, but with brand games, it most definitely is.
At Proelios, we approach brand owners and, like an advertising agency, we work directly with them to develop their brand games, offering account handling, creative and media services. In turn, Fishlabs provide the production facility where they devise and deliver a bespoke triple-A brand game on any mobile platform.
Fishlabs is already working with VW through the Sports Car Challenge game
I'm fortunate enough to have experience in both industries, so it was a very easy decision to establish Proelios as a brand gaming agency, but it had to be with Fishlabs as it already had the successes and credibility to help build Proelios' offering moving forward.
Given the success Fishlabs has already demonstrated with VW and Barclaycard, what do you think are the biggest obstacles to more brand advertising games?
We're living in a time where more and more people are connected to the internet 24/7 through smartphones and tablets. They are conducting their working, private and social lives through mobile platforms and gaming is one of the premium leisure activities - so in essence, 'we're fishing where the fish are' with brand gaming.
We believe our key obstacles are the perception of mobile games as a credible marketing tool.
At Proelios we don't make 'advergames' insofar that we develop a game as a platform to advertise a client's brand - instead we make triple-A quality brand experiences for consumers to connect, interact and build a relationship with a brand.
It's really the data analytics which sell the benefits of brand games - with the consumers permission we can tell where they are geographically, how much they engage with the brand, which elements they like and so on.
Measuring how consumers interact and engage with a brand is where marketing is heading and with brand games, we deliver those benefits now.
What sort of industries/brands are the low-hanging fruit?
It really could be any industry/brand wanting to reach out to its customers.
To begin with we're playing to our strengths i.e. automotive, financial and food, but we're focusing on other market segments too. The beauty of a brand game is that it can be about absolutely anything, there are no barriers in relation to creative ideas.
Brand advertisers have a lot of money but they don't seem to like advertising in mobile content, especially games. How do you think you can persuade them, especially considering that historically advergames haven't been that successful?
It is about measurement and conversion. The main reason we established Proelios was because of the reach, measurability and engagement brand games can obtain and the value this represents to global brand owners.
If you can show a client percent data on how and when each consumer around the world has interacted with their brand, become engaged and then purchased their product - that is the holy grail of marketing. It means that they can now allocate communication budgets which can be precisely measured as opposed to just providing brand awareness or hits on a web page.
For example, Volkswagen Sports Car Challenge has more than 5,000,000 downloads and produced over 21,500 dealership test drives solely through the game itself.
Just climb in
When clients understand the benefits of high quality measurable brand gaming, gaming will establish itself as a premium communication channel to connect brands with consumers more than just being a carrier of in-game display ads.
Do you think the low quality of mobile banner ads has put brands off mobile advertising even though better options are available?
Mobile advertising is pretty much based on the same principles as in other media - with the creative consisting of headline/pictures/link. Of course there are variants with links to video content etc, but ultimately it's passive.
With brand gaming, the consumer downloads a triple-A, high quality game for free and focuses their full attention on the content and gameplay for minutes if not hours.
But there is a balance between conveying a marketing message and delivering a satisfying gaming experience. If you focus too much on the marketing message itself, consumers will turn away, but if you make a great game which excites and informs, you're onto a winner.
In return for the time investment consumers put into the game, we can provide rewards for that investment such as new downloadable content. The overall aim with brand gaming is for brands to build a one to one relationship with consumers through mobile platforms.
Our clients don't advertise in-game, they are the game.
Mobile apps and games can drive a lot of eyeballs but don't you think the main issue is the kids playing VW games can't buy a car, nor are they old enough to get a Barclaycard?
Kids don't stay kids for long - one day they'll be looking to purchase their first car or open a bank account. But whatever age you interact with a brand game, as long as the experience is positive and satisfying, it reflects well on the brand itself and that perception stays with you.
Building positive brand perception in the minds of consumers takes years. It is built on trust and experience and the global brands we're talking to spend billions of dollars every year to maintain this perception. But they only have a number of communication channels to connect with consumers, and the trend for consumers leisure time is today is moving towards playing games more than viewing TV and even listening to music.
We're not saying that brand gaming is better or worse than TV advertising, but it is an evolutionary step forward to meet the needs and wants of consumers today.
Time to turnaround projects is very important for advertisers, so do you think the months required to make a game are a fundamental issue?
It depends. If a brand owner has an important product launch, say a new car launch for 2013, the chances are that they've been planning it at least 1-2 years in advance.
Our brand games can be developed to reflect the advertising launch creative, so there is brand saliency throughout the promotions, or the game can be standalone creatively.
Brand gaming is still relatively new to many brand owners and agencies, so it's our job to inform them of how long it takes to produce a game and how they need to approach the integration of brand gaming into their promotions so they can make informed decisions.
Finally, do you think brands are scared that they can't tell whether they're going to get a good mobile game or a bad one, so that risk means they prefer to stick with more traditional TV or online video ads?
Gaming, some would argue, is now a mature communications medium in the same way TV, video and the internet have become.
Obviously, there are marketing directors who believe games are for kids and won't even contemplate gaming, but there is now a generation of marketers who have grown up with video games and can see the massive benefits they bring and they know what makes a good game or not.
It's early days for Proelios and we're introducing brand gaming to a lot of brand owners, but with the measurable successes we've had with our Volkswagen, Barclaycard and most recently Coca-Cola brand games, we're helping to bridge the gap between marketing and gaming. The future looks very promising indeed.
Thanks to Kristien for his time.You can check out Proelios' services via its website.