Alex Rampell is founder and CEO of TrialPay, the leading provider of transactional advertising technology that uses the efficiencies of the web to pair online shoppers with ideal offers at every stage of the purchase process.
With Advertising Week upon us, many marketers at the NYC conference will be examining the new ways they can reach customers on Facebook (). While Facebook is now the largest display advertising site on the Internet (), there are many other ways besides display ads for companies to reach consumers on the network. One of the most effective new ways to advertise is inside social games.
According to a recent report by Nielsen, online games have surpassed personal e-mail to become the second most popular activity on the web, accounting for 10% of time spent online. Games also represent a huge audience for advertisers, as more than 56 million Americans play social games on a regular basis.
Social games provide some unique opportunities for advertisers, as gameplay generally involves virtual goods — things players want, but often don’t want to pay for. Game publishers have begun to tie virtual goods or currency to “real world” purchases from advertising partners (spend $50 at the Gap, get 20 Facebook Credits, for example). Advertisers can also use in-game ads to get in front of consumers before there is purchase intent. While a consumer might not have been planning to shop at the Gap when she logged into Sorority Life, she might make a purchase when she’s offered free virtual currency.
In-game marketing works well for a wide range of advertisers; from a consumer perspective, this is what various promotions look like:
- Retail () goods: Get virtual currency or goods for free in return for making a purchase from an online retailer like Gap.com or Nordstrom.com.
- Subscription services: Sign up for a monthly service (such as Netflix) to get free virtual currency or goods.
- Local advertisers: Order a pizza online at PapaJohns.com to get virtual currency (works great at 5 p.m.)
- Survey research: Complete a survey to receive free virtual currency or goods.
- Branded video views: Watch a short video ad or movie trailer to earn virtual currency or goods.
Here are four great ways to use social games to promote your brand.
Hit the In-Game Wall
The easiest place to start is the “Offer Wall” inside the game. This is a great option if you’ve got a “low-commitment” offer such as a free trial for your service, a survey or a video you want people to watch.
However, the Offer Wall is somewhat like the bulletin board at the front of a grocery store — it’s easy to post something but it’s hard to stand out. There are frequently 20 or more offers from other advertisers right next to yours. To boost your conversion rates, make sure that your offer text is clear and concise, with explicit instructions on how to complete the offer.
Post Your Ad on an In-Game Billboard
Advertisers are increasingly reaching customers through in-game placements, such as on banners or billboards inside the game or with limited-time deals that are offered to customers when starting a game. These placements can deliver a huge bang for your buck. At my company, we’ve observed that during a live campaign, as many as one out of every three players will view in-game promotions. More importantly, because there is consumer benefit to interacting with the promotion (or purchasing from a retailer), we’ve also seen conversion rates can be hundreds of times higher than for typical search or display advertisements.
Instead of being just one of many advertisers on an offer wall, in-game placements highlight a single advertiser and provide more real estate for brand messaging. Plus, these placements can give advertisers up to five times more exposure to customers than with Offer Wall placements.
When creating in-game placements, be sure to highlight the value your offer provides to players. For example, restaurant.com provides discounts at popular restaurants, so it recently featured an ad with the headline “Dine For Less” in Playfish’s Restaurant City game. Players who clicked on the billboard saw an overlay branded by restaurant.com.
Disclosure: This campaign used the TrialPay platform.
Put Your Name on Branded Virtual Goods
Want to take it up a notch? Consider partnering with a game developer to put your brand name on the virtual goods themselves. MTV recently got in on the game to boost ratings for its 2010 Video Music Awards by giving away virtual replicas of celebrity accessories and fashion items on Mall World, a style and fashion-oriented Facebook application.
This strategy has also paid dividends for brands such as Cascadian Farm, who recently teamed up with game developer Zynga to be the brand behind the game’s organic blueberries crop. Within a few days of launching in the FarmVille Market, Cascadian Farm organic blueberries had been purchased by more than 1 million players for 20 credits each.
Consider branding virtual goods that are complementary to your products. For example, if you are a clothing brand, you can give players the option to customize their virtual persona by providing branded virtual clothing.
Launch Your Own Branded Game
The pinnacle of in-game brand building would be to create and launch your own branded game. This strategy not only gives consumers a fun and memorable way to engage with your brand, but it also enables you to create and sell your own branded virtual goods.
For example, the New York Jets recently launched a Facebook game called Ultimate Fan that lets football fans predict game scores, take quizzes on their knowledge of various NFL teams, allot points to their favorite teams and hold virtual tailgate parties with other fans. The Jets anticipate generating revenue through product placement sponsorships and fans purchasing virtual tailgate items.
You don’t have to be a sports or entertainment company to create your own social game. Reckitt Benckiser, the company behind brands such as Lysol, Clearasil and Woolite, developed its own branded game to allow people to learn more about the company, its brands and its work environment. The game, called poweRBrands, presents players with marketing challenges for various products. As players complete the tasks, they are awarded points to exchange for promotions, different job locations and office upgrades.
If you don’t have the in-house expertise to develop a game yourself, there are multiple agencies that can develop the game for you, such as Arkadium and Avenue Social.
There are so many avenues you can take with advertising when it comes to social gaming. Let us know what brands you think have done a great job of using social games as an advertising opportunity.
© 2010 Mashable.
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