Fun Games - Branding: A RockYou Specialty

Advertising - Branding and Gaming Mix-It Up

zoo gate game
Zookeeper 2 - More Fun Than a Barrel of Monkeys or a Tank of Otters. Used with permission. © RockYou.

Following a long and lucrative career in advertising, as a copywriter to a creative director to vice president, Peter Mayle decamped to Province. In his wake, he left a written "roast" to the advertising industry in the form of his book Up the Agency: The Funny Business of Advertising. Mayle makes the reader laugh by making fun of advertising – as only a seasoned insider could.

Advertising has been variously described as an art, a profession, a sinister instrument of mass persuasion, and a ludicrous waste of money. It hovers on the fringes of big business and show business, of sports and politics, of sleaze and respectability all at once. It is impossible to ignore, and yet most people deny that they are influenced by it.

A look at Mayle’s book today highlights a striking difference between advertising then and advertising now. In the 1990s, we were entertained when someone wrote about advertising. Today, we are entertained by advertising.

Perfect Pairing - RockYou's Branded Entertainment and Social Games

Advertising has become fun. By that I mean more than eye-catching or intriguing or funny—advertising is now part of the game. Social gamers embrace brand advertisement as just part of the fun. How exactly did we get there?

Julie Shumaker, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Media at RockYou explained, "The social gamer audience is a very large and engaged one. RockYou was one of the first companies to recognize the potential of pairing this audience with brands." RockYou takes a three-pronged approach to advertising to social gamers.

  • (1) Brand exposure and brand reach are maximized through display advertising that is targeted at particular gamers;
  • (2) Brand engagement is maximized through the use of interactive video products that have high brand value; and,
  • (3) Branded entertainment in which a brand is immersed in the game, as RockYou puts it, "the entertainment your customers love."

Branded Integration Is Based on Brand Affinity

Branded integration in social games is built on the idea consumers are most interested in engaging with brands for which they already have an affinity.

According to AdNector, brand "campaigns attract consumers who are already big fans of a brand, essentially 'activating' them as spokespersons for the brand to friends and family." In RockYou’s experience, social gamers are attracted to ads that use brand integration, are incentivized, and function as branded mini-games.

Shumaker notes that "Our incentivized ads have some of the highest completion and click-through rates in the industry and directly reward a consumer with content associated with the specific game they are currently playing." Perhaps one of the factors that make incentivized ads so appealing is the congruency between the game context and the brand. Certainly, the interplay between the brand and the game is what makes brand virtual goods ten times more popular than unbranded virtual good. Shumaker explains that a social gamer is more likely to enjoy "a digital good reward rather than a currency reward" because of the fit with the game.

Branded mini-games are like intermissions between quarters of the big game. A quick fun interactive mini-game sponsored by a familiar or favorite brand can create a welcome change of pace or a good place to sign off if the player needs to end the session.

As ads become more embedded in consumers' everyday lives, more options for engaging with brands open up. For example, RockYou employs a freemium model that lets players choose if they want to pay for items in the game or if they simply want to experience the ad-supported content.

As the Hardware Goes, So Goes the Advertising.

Cloud computing delivers an attractive user solution in the form of seamless experiences for using and sharing content across all the devices a person is likely to own, reports Pragmatic Marketing. The customer experience when using cloud computing is that it simply and beautifully works for sharing content, and enables a user’s digital experiences to transcend the hardware devices that they use. According to Pragmatic Marketing, the multi-device synchronization continuity that cloud computing provides across devices also enables the customer to achieve device-independence because all the data is stored in the cloud.

What this means in practical terms is that as a customer moves from device to device, the user experience also continues and expands as the devices can detect—through the cloud—where device activity last occurred.

With cloud computing, cross-platform integration is becoming a seamless reality. In the core gaming market segment, the use of multiple platforms is common. Accordingly, Shumaker says, “social gaming has truly become another platform of choice for all gamers--core and casual alike.” In fact, the lines between hardcore console gamers and social gamers are becoming increasingly blurred. RockYou’s Julie Shumaker suggests we should expect to see more "integration of hardcore game mechanics into social games."

Source: Mayle, Peter. (1990). Up the Agency: The Funny Business of Advertising. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.