Moderator: Scott Steinberg, Publisher, DigitalTrends.com
Min Kim, VP Marketing, Nexon America
Keith Lee, CEO, Booyah
Paul Caparotta, Media Manager, Namco Bandai Games
Caryl Shaw, Senior Producer, Spore EA/Maxis
Summary: Video game advertising has evolved far past the age of simple push, pull and viral content creation: Today, it s become virtually indiscernible from the end product itself. Having entered into an era where adding long-term value and building/managing customer relationships, not simply driving sales and fueling market awareness, have suddenly become paramount, we must also accept a radical truth. Not to mention, that is, the fundamental shift in thinking it necessitates.
To wit, no longer can promoters afford to act purely as a mouthpiece for the message, nor allow creative to serve in a mere outside supporting role. Instead, they must proactively work hand-in-hand with (and increasingly begin to think like) actual game designers themselves. Likewise, to achieve maximum ROI, marketing must also be deeply embedded into actual product development, ideally from day one, and viewed as an organic extension of any given title or campaign s core feature set. Because in its purest essence, video game advertising circa 2009 isn t about just providing a temporary groundswell of support for a specific title or brand. It s about creating a persistent, standalone entertainment experience with real, tangible worth unto itself.
Given this sweeping change in focus, it’s important to note. Promotional content must not only be designed from the beginning to live on in a dedicated, persistent space. It s also vital that users be given the tools to interact with, shape, share and make of media what they will as well as connect and communicate with fellow enthusiasts while doing so. In essence, tomorrow’s most effective advertising campaigns are actually metagames in disguise. And will be designed so that users actively and regularly seek them out in order to sate their desire to gain exclusive access/knowledge, a perceived boost in social status or tangible physical reward. Make no mistake: Audience empowerment is the key to success. Unbounded by time, budget or political constraints, your user base can act as an eternal wellspring from which greatness springs. And more pointedly serve to drive new customer adoption and content refresh rates far beyond that which is within the capacity of any given agency or enterprise to reproduce.
Still, even more crucial to grasp is the following concept. Marketing is no longer a one-way street, where value accrues only to the advertiser s benefit. To succeed with any meaningful degree of effectiveness, it must also serve as a trusted and transparent vehicle through which the user ultimately feels he or she achieves some degree of participation in (and influence over) the shape of the end-product. In other words, commonality begets community, community begets empathy, and empathy begets enthusiasm. Specifically, the kind money cannot buy, and sort which turns video game customers or shoppers in any vertical, for that matter into evangelists worth many times more than their weight in gold.
Because ultimately, no advertising campaign in this day and age can afford to remain stolid or static. Nor can a given marketer, however well informed, hope to understand the ever-changing wants and needs of their target demographic as well as members of said audience itself. Give users (especially passionate ones, the very definition of today s game players) the opportunity to join forces and color within the lines of your message, and you may be surprised what happens. They might just be happy to ignite interest in a particular campaign facet you overlooked, reboot a stale initiative or provide enough content and/or inspiration to capitalize on the unlikeliest opportunities. The bottom line: Reach out a hand to embrace your community, and anything s possible including staying one step ahead of the game itself.