The in-game advertising industry relies on pre- or post-roll videos, or prominently placed billboard graphics that are sold on a per-view basis. Melzer says his research points to the need to better understand what makes game ads memorable. The industry generally tracks in-game ad effectiveness only through a combination of research surveys and geographic data recorded during game play, but, Melzer says, “it will be necessary also to analyze the mechanisms that underlie memory performance.”
Immersive systems such as AdRacer may be instrumental for testing prelaunch games for effectiveness, and subtler advertisements integrated into games may be a more effective way of reaching players. One approach is to place products as digital objects that can be interacted with. “The market is moving beyond graphic ads to more complex animated and video ads–to 3-D object advertising,” says Epstein, noting that new car models can, for instance, be placed prominently within a game.
Research published this month in the International Journal of Advertising backs up this claim. A team led by Thomas Mackay from Monash University in Australia found that driving a virtual car of a specific brand resulted in a significant opinion change in favor of the brand among casual game players.
Some brands may also want to steer clear of advertising in violent video games to protect their public image. “Attempts to increase players’ familiarity with brands by integrating them in a violent game may backfire at in-game advertisers and video game producers,” Melzer says. Double Fusion’s Epstein adds that “even if it were shown that violent games have better recall characteristics than nonviolent games, it is likely that the same brands would continue to eschew M-rated [mature] opportunities in favor of the 80-plus percent of games that are rated T [teen] or below.”
An unreleased follow-up study by Melzer reveals another undesirable result: that violent play can negatively impact a player’s opinion of a brand.