FIRST DYNAMIC VIDEO ADS SERVED INTO ONLINE GAMES

Massive Pushes Real-Time Panasonic Spots Into 'Anarchy Online'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Massive Inc., whose ad serving network for computer games began operating earlier this year, has begun serving its first video ads into the PC game Anarchy Online, according to the company.

The dynamic serving technology places full action video ads into the gamescape -- or digital architecture -- in real time.

Massive launches its first dynamically served video-game ad campaigns.
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"Dynamic" means the ad units can be served on the fly and updated or switched at any time. The advertisers for this initial video rollout are Panasonic and Britain’s Channel 4.

New gaming era
Dynamically placed video ads represent a new era for the gaming sector, which has been largely limited to static ads that have to be permanently embedded in the game code as the game is in development. The Massive system works with game companies to embed its own special targeting and display code within the game. Its ad-serving network can then push ads into those special code spots at will, much the same as online ad-serving networks can place ads into Web pages in real time.

Dynamic ad placement changes the nature of in-game advertising, allowing marketers' ad campaigns to be as current and immediate as any other interactive channel. For instance, it could open the door for movie studios to advertise to gamers that a film opening that weekend.

The future advertising market for such inserted game ads is potentially large as game technology evolves. Ziff Davis' latest "Digital Gaming in America" report indicates that 67.5 million out of 108 million U.S. households currently play video and computer games.

Panasonic has placed a 15- and 30-second ad for its DVD video camera in Anarchy Online. The ads, produced by Grey Worldwide and Renegade Marketing, begin rolling as the character the gamer is controlling starts to approach a billboard or a screen that's part of the scenery on a street. As the character gets closer to the ad, the audio gets louder. The gamer can stop and “watch” the ad or pass by it. If he passes by, the next time the ad appears, it picks up right where the gamer stopped watching. The viewer has to watch the full 15- or 30-second ad in its entirety in one session, said Nicholas Longano, chief marketing officer of Massive. “We bill when we have a full impression from beginning to end,” he said.

Competitive CPM rates
The ads are sold on a cost-per-thousand-viewers basis that is competitive with cable TV advertising, Mr. Longano said.

Massive also provides reporting on how many overal saw the ad, and it what daypart and which areas of the country the player was, along with data on the stopping power and effectiveness of the placement.

One question advertisers are waiting to have answered is, Will the gamers accept commercials that so closely resemble TV ads?

Panasonic's ads are repurposed TV commercials, said Sean Black, senior vice president and managing group director of MediaCom’s Beyond Interactive, the youth and entertainment agency that put the deal together. He said he believed the TV spots will be accepted by gamers because they occur in a logical context

“It’s not like TV ads running randomly,” he said. “It would be like if I was a character and walked up to a desk with a video monitor on it and ad was playing -- they are embedded in a way that fits in with the environment."

Ads should not distract from game
Mr. Longano said he believes that because the ads are so interactive they will be accepted by the gamer as part of the fun of the game. “Never will the ad distract from game play,” he said. “In most cases, the ad occurs when the character is in conversation or in some social situation.”

The Panasonic placements, which can be targeted geographically, are served to gamers in North America. The ads on Channel 4 are served to gamers in the U.K. for the American TV show Lost. Those ads are 15-second spots by OMD Digital.

Anarchy Online, which has been available for four years, has been downloaded by about 1 million users, said Terri Parkins, product manager of game publisher Funcom. Some 2,000 newcomers play the game each day. The game is free, but Funcom offers extensions and add-ons for a monthly membership fee of about $15. The add-ons are another charge of between $29 and $39.

A futuristic alien battle game, Anarchy Online is known as a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, which means that hundreds of thousands of players can compete against each other across the globe at one time. They spend up to 20 hours a week playing the game, Ms. Parkins said.

Most avid online gamers
In general, MMOs are the most avid gamers in the online world. In round numbers, “you’re talking about a sliver, but an avid sliver,” Mr. Black said. There are about 4.5 million of these MMO subscribers, according to Beyond Interactive research.

Devoted to gaming (their average game play is four hours a day) they are technologically astute, with some 95% using broadband as their primary connection, and more likely to own a custom-built PC. More than half influence the games their friends buy, he said. They are not readers or TV watchers.

“You’d never be able to reach these people any other way,” Mr. Black said.

Dozens of static ads also occur throughout Anarchy Online, which does risk the possibility of advertising overkill, observers said. Another downside is the games are only available on PC-enabled games, not game consoles like Sony Corp.’s PlayStation or Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox.

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