Are games effective as ads?

A growing body of research suggests games have greater brand recall and purchase intent – if done right.

Branded advergames have greater brand recall than advertising. In one study, a branded puzzle game (similar to Bejewled) was compared to an unbranded version of the same game with a prominent banner ad on top of it.

  • 3% people recalled the banner ad without any prompting, whereas 32% recalled the advergame brand unprompted.
  • When prompted with a selection of possible ads, 14% recalled the banner ad correctly, while 57% remembered the advergame brand.
  • Overall, 16% of people recalled the banner ad, but 68% recalled the advergame brand (over four times as many!)  (Deal, D., 2005, “The Ability of Branded Online Games to Build Brand Equity”)

Relevant brands have greater recall in games.  In another study, players of racing games were able to recall 30% of brands placed in the game in the short-term and 10% of the brands five months later.  However, they had far greater recall of the brands of the cars they got to choose to drive – a “high involvement” task that was a key and fun part of the game.  (Nelson, R.N., 2005, Exploring Consumer Response to “Advergaming”)

The game has to be fun first for your message to get through.  The same study found a statistically significant relationship has been found between brand recall and “telepresence” (essentially being ‘into’ the game and ‘being there’ in a state of  ‘flow’).  However, too much telepresence may be detrimental – there is either too much happening or nonessential game elements are ignored.  In our experience this is one of the golden rules of advergame design: it has to be fun first, even though that’s not the ultimate objective.