Julie Shumaker is a pioneer. She’s helped invent the concept of placing advertising within video games on behalf of her company, Electronic Arts. Since 2001, she was director of advertising sales for both online and in-game advertising, but on April 1, her talents were redirected. Now national director of sales for video game advertising, her objective is to focus on transforming branded placement within games from its infancy to, well, a healthy, active childhood.
|Julie Shumaker, national director of sales for video game advertising, Electronic Arts.
“There’s so much market momentum that it’s [been more] buzz than reality,” says Ms. Shumaker, 36. “The reality is that that a tiny percentage will actually have ads in them. We did 38 titles last year and probably had advertising in 10 of them.”
For certain trailblazing brands, she’s already fulfilled the promise of developing in-game advertising way beyond the hype, her clients say. Dino Bernacchi, advertising manager for Pontiac at General Motors Corp., credits Ms. Shumaker with bringing ads from signage and banners in games to making the brand part of the game play.
“What adds value is integrating the content I’m trying to do in the real world and integrating it into the video game,” Mr. Bernacchi says. Take the EA “March Madness” console game. Before people played, “they had an average understanding of our brand as corporate sponsor,” Mr. Bernacchi says. “After playing the game, that went up three times. Julie is a couple of steps ahead of the industry.”
Brands hot to enter the space
Much is riding on her expertise. Big brands are hot to enter the space. For the 2003-04 season, video games were responsible for a 7% decline in TV ratings among this age group, contends Michael Goodman, senior analyst at the Yankee Group. There are about 130 million gamers ages 8 and up, he says.
In spite of all the growth potential, EA posted its first loss in four years for its first fiscal quarter. The reason is that consumers have slowed spending as they await the next generation of product launches from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp., coming out this spring.
In-game advertising is more important than ever to produce revenue, Mr. Goodman says.
Used to pressure
Sound like enough pressure? Ms. Shumaker, a former professional golfer whose idea of a good time is training for a marathon (she’s run six of them), relishes the challenge.
“Marketers are following a wave, not really diving in and understanding,” she says. "They want to interrupt game play, and we need to help them to be patient and trusting of the recommendations of our creative group.”