Masterclassing Connect

Playing for Money

David Murphy

Sean Cronin, CEO of Selatra, explains how companies can use games to their advantage as part of a mobile marketing campaign


Seancronin The Internet delivered a much-needed shot in the arm to the advertising industry. While TV viewers are dropping, online eyeballs are growing rapidly. According to figures released by the Advertising Association, online UK advertising spend rose to 597m in 2004, as the medium closed in on radio advertising in terms of market share.
Both consumers and clients were losing a little faith in traditional advertising, so when the Internet arrived, it opened up a world of new opportunities for companies eager to get their message across, heralding such new terms as Banners and Skyscrapers and breathing new life back into the traditional press, TV and radio and direct mail sectors.




Brave new world

When the mobile phone was conceived, marketers were quick to spot its
potential. The brave new world of m-commerce beckoned, promising a
mini-revolution, mirroring the boom secured from the Internet and
offering to satisfy both the ever-increasing demands of corporates and
a more savvy, sophisticated and spam-wary consumer.

One of the potential win-win scenarios marketers touted at the time as
a life-changing scenario was targeted advertising that would interact
with us seamlessly as we went about our daily business. We would come
within a mile or so of a fast food restaurant at lunchtime, or a
supermarket during our normal shopping hours, and our mobile would
bleep with targeted offers matched closely to our desires. This hasnt
happened.

Marketers quickly realised that a simple repetition of Web style
advertising wouldnt appeal to small-screen users, where space is at a
premium in a pixel-challenged display. WAP pages can only cram in so
much before becoming cluttered.

The mobile world takes its lead from Asia, where the market is at least
18 months ahead of Europe, and the good news is that mobile phones have
mercifully remained bleep-free from discounted burgers and beans
coupons and thankfully, annoying banners are not prevalent just yet.

But there are developments in Asia that advertisers, media planners and
marketers in Europe planning future integrated marketing campaigns
should take note of now, because they will provide pointers to where
the focus may need to be in 2008.

According to the market statistics, the fasting growing sector in the
mobile market is gaming. Visiongains new wireless gaming report says
that revenue from wireless games is set to multiply by as much as 25
times or more over the next five years. A recent report from Informa
Telecoms & Media placed the value of the mobile games market at
$2.6 billion (1.4 billion) in 2005.

Screen Digest suggests that 80% of the games downloaded worldwide were
in Korea and Japan. Its report also claimed that while the mobile
gaming market is forecast to grow by around 50% in Asia over the next
couple of years, it is expected to grow at ten times that rate in
Western Europe and North America as we catch up.



Imaginative perspective


There are early signs that we are beginning to approach mobile gaming
from a more imaginative perspective in Western Europe too and it is the
large media corporations who are leading the way.

ITV has introduced a mobile content portal, following on from Channel
4, which launched one earlier this year. The BBC has produced its first
mobile phone video game, based on the hit spy drama Spooks, while The
Times has brought cult gaming craze SuDoku to mobile phones, with an
offer promoted through the newspaper. Every time the game starts up,
players are reminded to buy the print edition of the newspaper. These
early green shoots are but pointers of what is to come.

Because brands face an audience that is fragmenting, many Asian
companies are going one step further, and building entire marketing
campaigns with mobile gaming as the centrepiece, in an effort to get
their message across to a technically aware audience. This model is
achieving great success in Asia, but one crucial component in its
success is pricing. The lower prices the consumer pays for games is
fuelling the phenomenal growth of mobile gaming in Asia, but some
companies are going one step further and giving the games away for free.

Take an unfashionable motorbike brand, for example, that wishes to
reach out to the 18-25 year old market. Working with companies like
Selatra, the company can source, re-brand and enhance an existing game
engine, tapping into its core market demographic at a reasonable cost.
The motorbike company offers the game free to potential players (its
target market). In return, players agree to watch adverts while the
game is downloading or in between levels while the next part of the
game is loading.  The games are thoughtfully bannerised and
carefully-targeted product placement is pre-sold.

Offering free demos, creating communities through leagues and
tournaments, and enabling a multi-player facility are all methods that
are being used to enhance and extend the lifecycle of this promotion.
The brand can become fashionable by association with an appealing game,
and sales to a new demographic become possible.

Because the mobile phone is a personal space, and 100% targeted, it is
extremely valuable to advertisers. Thats why many companies in Asia
are running with carefully thought out mobile gaming campaigns, working
as a core element within their integrated marketing plans. So the good
news is that the long awaited advertising boom from the m-commerce
revolution appears to be on its way. The fleet-of-foot among us will
already be examining the possibilities now, to take advantage of this
next wave of opportunities.

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