HONG KONG (AdAgeChina.com) -- McDonald's Corp. is marketing its 24-hour McDelivery service in Hong Kong on billboards aimed at weary drivers.
Make that armchair drivers. And the billboards? They aren't real either.
The ads are virtual billboards placed in Need for Speed and other games such as Pro Evolution Soccer 2009, Undercover, Rainbow Six: Las Vegas 2, NBA Live 2009 and Burnout: Paradise. If they use PC and Xbox 360 platforms in Hong Kong, game players will see the ads as they drive past the billboards in the car-racing game Need for Speed, or courtside while tossing a ball around in the NBA game.
The campaign, which marks the first time McDonald's has used ads placed inside online games in Greater China, was created for McDonald's by Tribal DDB and OMD.
It's an even bigger landmark for Microsoft Corp. as the first in-game ad campaign developed by Microsoft's advertising division in Asia in conjunction with Massive, a Microsoft subsidiary that helps advertisers engage with gamers in real time across multiple platforms.
The virtual ads "enhance the user experience," said Kenneth Andrew, the Hong Kong-based marketing director for Asia/Pacific at Microsoft Advertising. "It makes the environment more real for gamers. They also target people while they are immersed in one activity, not multitasking with multiple devices like phones and televisions, which would split their attention away from the game."
McDonald's hopes the ads will also reach burger fans while they are hungry and reluctant to leave their computer. The billboards, which show little more than a picture of a Big Mac and the delivery hotline number, were not designed as a branding exercise. They are a call-to-action to promote sales.
"We really want to try new things in the market on the media side and on the advertising side. We're using a convenience platform right now and we've found a lot of people in Hong Kong, especially teenagers, play digital games right now. They are usually at home and are unwilling to go outside for dinner," said Anisa Tio, an assistant marketing director at McDonald's in Hong Kong.
"We believe gamers play online games at night and the edge of the McDelivery deliver service is the fact that it is available 24 hours per day. We think this medium can reach these gamers," added Esther Chung, a McDonald's assistant marketing manager in Hong Kong. "This isn't a test case, but if we find it really effective, other markets might adapt it."
Microsoft is already working on similar deals with other advertisers in Asian markets where online gaming is popular such as Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, Mr. Andrew said. "Asia is catching up to the U.S., especially Korea, which is already a major market for game creators."
The export of games developed in South Korea, a primary focus for Microsoft in Asia, topped $1 billion in 2008, up 40% from a year earlier, according to that country's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Mainland China is another priority. The country's 49.4 million online gamers generated $2.7 billion in revenue last year, according to IDC, a 76.6% increase from 2007. IDC predicts China's online game revenues will reach $5.8 billion by 2013.
The popularity of online games in China has prompted other marketers like Coca-Cola to experiment with forms of in-game marketing. In June 2009, Coke partnered with Shanda Games, one of China's's leading interactive entertainment media companies, to launch a year-long promotion built around Aion, a fantasy combat game, to promote Coke Zero in China.
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