But when it comes to gaming, researchers and agency executives are starting to figure out where the tactic stacks up against other media. OMD, for example, has become the first media-buying firm to ink a deal to use GaMeasure metrics from Interpret. These metrics provide reach and frequency figures and estimates for specific game titles and platforms. The service looks at a range of target audiences and demographics. (They do not measure dynamic in-game ads.)
Equal footing for agencies
"We wanted to provide demos on video-game titles and go deeper into profiling," said Michael Dowling, who founded Interpret after helping set up Nielsen's interactive entertainment division. "We want to know who's playing 'Guitar Hero III'? What products are they consuming?" Previously, it was mostly gaming manufacturers and in-game advertising companies subscribing to the service; allowing agencies to tap it will put them on more equal footing with the sellers of such advertising, he said.
The idea is to use the service as a planning tool vs. as a buying metric. Dario Raciti, director of gaming at OMD, likens it to the print-planning tool IMS Print. "We need this kind of thing because the type of target information we need to make our decisions when selecting games or platforms has just not been there," he said.
He said, surprisingly, game manufacturers have acted more like package-goods companies than media companies, which would work hard to figure out what kinds of people are interacting with the content in order to better sell ads around it.
Recently Interpret ran a study for video-game advertising company DoubleFusion that looked at the engagement of in-game placements. DoubleFusion used the data to create a metric comparable to a gross rating point. The theory, explained Jonathan Epstein, president-CEO of Double Fusion, was to convert it into TV talk. "If we want to earn TV dollars for this, we need to put what we do into a comparable language," he said.
Of course, Mr. Raciti cautions that a tool such as GaMeasure is just one of many planning principles OMD uses. He also said the agency runs tests on all of its gaming campaigns to help gage their effectiveness.
"We don't say we're going to be in this game just because it's got a high composition of an audience that we like to reach," he said. "We ask, is it relevant? Does it make sense from a product-placement standpoint? We don't tend to recommend signage-only opportunities. We try to recommend leveraging games for environment and not just the impression."