The in-game ad market has attracted scores of startups, as well as giants like Apple and Google. Google’s AdSense for Games, for example, lets companies place a message before, during, or after a demographically appropriate casual game, while Apple has a mechanism for serving in-game ads built into its mobile operating system. Apple deals with the advertisers and gives developers 60 percent of the ad revenue.
Whatever differences it may have with traditional advertising, the in-game variety has one similarity: its effectiveness is often hard to judge. Which is why, says Verna, most companies are now using it to raise general brand awareness rather than to attempt to directly increase sales of specific products. “They are still testing the waters,” he says. And so far, game advertisers have produced nothing particularly memorable. “There’s no game ad that has gone viral,” says Brodie. “Nothing like the Old Spice guy [a popular TV commercial] where I’d want to call my friend and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to play this game.’”
Marketers and consumers can expect to see some rapid evolution in in-game advertising, however, as it moves further away from simple banners and product placement. “Right now, we are only at the ad experience 1.0 stage in casual games,” says Matt Spiegel, CEO of Tap.Me, a Chicago-based company developing technology for game advertisers. “There will soon be a whole new generation of advertising for games.”