The game is changing for brands

By Tarana Khan , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | July 07, 2008
Online games are becoming a key element in the digital campaigns of many brands

As brands & #BANNER1 & # continue to evolve their campaigns on the Internet, an interesting platform that is becoming popular with marketers is online gaming. Advertisers have realised that consumers may overlook brands in display and search ads. However, it's hard to do so when they are actively involved in playing a game that has the brand as its central theme or character.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the size of the online gaming market in India (as in January 2007) is Rs 21 crore, of which advertising - advergames, in-game placements and display ads - contribute 11 per cent, or Rs 2.3 crore. Of course, these figures are over a year old and industry professionals estimate the industry to be valued much higher.

Why play around?
Why are marketers experimenting with gaming? One of the key drivers is engagement with the brand. Raj Menon, chief operating officer, Contests2win, says, "In advergames, consumers can virtually touch or experience the brand. On an average, consumers spend between three and five minutes on a game. All this while, they are immersed in the brand. By the time they're through with the game, the brand message is completely communicated." Contests2win has created games for brands such as Airtel, Pepsi, Bajaj Allianz, Intel, Maybelline and Bingo.

For instance, the Bingo game ( was for Bingo's Mad Angles Achari Masti, which was based on the TV commercial featuring a mad scientist. In the game, the old man is placed in a maternity ward, where he has to save a packet of chips from the pregnant women. Ravi Desai, senior brand manager, Bingo, ITC, says the game was a natural fit with the overall campaign for the product. "The thought around the brand should be embedded in the game. There's no point in just placing your logo in the game. It will not impact gamers until the brand is integrated well into the game," says Desai.

He adds, "The idea is to try and use another touch point to leave an impression on the target audience, that is, the youth. The more you penetrate into a medium they are comfortable with, the more it works to your benefit." Bingo has already experimented with an interactive website, a mobile game and a viral video.

But not any or every brand can be used in these games. Amar Deep Singh, vice-president, Interactive Avenues, says, "The natural fit between the game and the brand is very important. However, it can be an important part of a campaign if the target group matches the gaming audience, and also if it is able to create an interesting way to convey the brand proposition. For example, the Intel Centrino campaign used Need More Horsepower? within racing games as a strategic placement." Interactive Avenues has developed advergames for brands such as Colgate Max Fresh, John Players, Cinthol and ESPN.

While advergames are specially created with a brand in mind, brand placements in games display the brand within a relevant game. Rohit Sharma, chief operating officer,, says, "When games are made based on brands, or simply include brands plugged in as a means of in-game advertising, the brands gain top of the mind recall and even brand loyalty. During game-play, the brand has a captive audience as gamers log in and spend time on the game."

Zapak has developed advergames for brands such as Adidas, Bru, Apollo, Perk, Gillette, HSBC and LIC. Sharma claims that advergaming contributes 25-30 per cent of the company's revenues and this is expected to grow to 50 per cent by the end of 2008.

Zapak created Perky Island ( for the brand, Perk. The game was based on the product's tagline, 'Take It Lightly', and involved thwarting pirate ships by shooting Perk bars at them. Chella Pandyan, category manager, Perk, Cadbury India, says, "The youth is spending more time on non-television activities such as gaming. The game was an opportunity to take the brand proposition to the consumer in a way with which they are comfortable." Pandyan is happy with the response the game received and the company is planning to launch another game soon for the brand.

Building brand connect
The concept of a game developed for a brand has to be carefully chosen to match with the brand's values and message. Suhail Baghdadi, general manager, marketing, Indiagames, says, "Most branded games are usually developed in agreement with the licensor (owner of the brand). They aim to capture the essence of the brand and add certain elements that are unique to the game version. Each one of these elements is integrated keeping the brand values in mind and aimed at defining what the brand would like to communicate through the game."

Indiagames is based on a subscription model, but it also creates promotional games for movies and TV shows. Recently, it created a game for STAR TV's Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?

Therefore, the more brand elements in the game, the more it adds to brand recall. Media2win, a digital agency, created a game for Garnier's Sun Control Daily Moisturiser (, where the female character has to complete a number of tasks before getting tanned in the sun. Namrata Balwani, national business head, Media2win, says, "The consumer spends more time (in a game) in terms of interaction than he would on a simple page with product info. While the consumer knows it's a branded game, there is more openness to receiving brand information since it is woven into an entertaining format. For Garnier, the branded game had to provide a lot of information about the brand as well as the product within a few minutes of interaction."

Media2win also developed a game for Max New York Life to promote an insurance plan called Smart Steps, meant for children. Interestingly, the game was targeted at parents and was part of a microsite developed for the product, The game required parents to cross three levels, indicating the growth phases of children.

Describing why the company chose a game format, Anisha Motwani, senior vice-president, marketing, Max New York Life, says, "Insurance can be an extremely educative, albeit boring subject. To make it interesting, we built it into the game, where parents learnt about the pitfalls in bringing up a child and about planning for the child's future." She adds that the company is planning to launch another game.

Costs and payoff
While the brand connect is important, there is also the cost factor to be considered. More gaming elements naturally mean higher cost. The cost can vary between Rs 50,000 and Rs 5,00,000. The average cost of an advergame, according to industry sources, is Rs 3.5-4 lakh.

Commenting on the factors that affect cost, Baghdadi says, "The cost of the game depends on factors such as the platform for which it is being developed, licensing costs, and marketing and distribution costs. The complexity of the game, the level of graphics and programming efforts involved also add to the costs. Licensing costs can run from a few thousands to millions of dollars."

The pickup of a game can be measured in many ways. The common parameters are the number of people who played the game, the average time they spent on it, and the number of times they came back to play (game-play). It can also be measured in terms of the number of downloads.

According to Sharma, the average response rate per month in terms of unique players at is three lakh, the number of game-plays is five million and the average time spent is more than three minutes.

Certainly, advergaming is a growing phenomena and big brands are making it part of their digital campaigns. This only goes on to show that branded gaming is here to stay.