March 17th, 2008

Kid-Targeted Ad Deal Counts on "Nag Factor"

By Kris Graft
Next Generation

You may have seen it before: a kid’s in the grocery store, and he’s insistent that his parent buy him not just any Cap’n Crunch knock-off--he wants the Cap’n Crunch. This has a lot to do with TV commercials depicting a super-cool cartoon captain who is all about making his breakfast more balanced.

“Some people call it the ‘nag factor,’” Cookie Jar SVP of digital media Ken Locker tells Next-Gen. “But I see kids as influencers.” Cookie Jar is currently in the beta phase of the MMORPG Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands, which is based on the Kids WB! show, Magi-Nation.

“... In games, you’re actually selling to parents and kids. Our demographic of 8-14 year olds, they have some disposable income, and they can influence choices made in the household, whether it’s food or an electronic product or a movie and so on. It’s a key market.”

On Monday, Cookie Jar announced that it has signed an agreement with youth entertainment and media network GoFish, which will be providing kid-targeted in-game ad support for the Magi-Nation game.

Magi-Nation will be a free-to-play game that generates revenue through virtual item purchases and in-game ads. Locker estimates the ad revenue between in-game ads and microtrasactions will be split 70/30, respectively.

Cookie Jar has implemented ads in previous titles in the form of banner ads, but Magi-Nation will be the company’s first foray into actual in-game ads.

“What we learned is that you have to conceptualize how you’re going to integrate the in-game ads when you develop the game. It’s kind of hard to reverse-engineer it,” says Locker.

“...If the ads are contextual, they’re less objectionable. ... Kids seem to accept it.”

One example that Locker says could be implemented is having a brand of bottled water prominent at popular in-game watering holes, perhaps engraved on a rock.

“We haven’t actually sold the space yet--this is just an example--but we could place the Dasani water brand at a ‘Dasani Pond,’ he explains. “This game uses energy points, so whenever you need energy points, you just dip in this pond, and you get five energy points. If you’re very active in battle, you’ll be coming to that pond a lot to get more energy points. It’s great for gameplay, but as an advertiser, you’re generating impressions.”

Cookie Jar met with GoFish about six months ago to discuss in-game ad support. “What I like about them is that they’re a kids’ youth network, so their demographic is six- to 17-years-old. They’re all ex-Yahoo ad salespeople.”

Despite its cavity-inducing name, Cookie Jar, which is also a bit of an edutainment company, will be avoiding advertising foods in-game that aren’t healthy. “If you’re fighting in battle, you’d pick up something sponsored by a granola bar to get energy, rather than a pack of Fritos,” says Locker. “We want to promote good food habits.”

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