December 15th, 2008

Mead's Branded Video Game Attracts 10 Million Players

By Laurie Sullivan
Online Media Daily

Mead office supply company says its back-to-school branded video game and virtual world merchandising campaign were successful in leading consumers to its new Five Star product lines and Battle of the Beats promotion.

The Five-Star Classroom Pilot video game, created by San Francisco-based GoFish, inserted digitally created products into virtual worlds to coincide with the back-to-school shopping season. It ran exclusively on Miniclip.com, a London-based casual game site.

More than 10 million consumers played the game, equaling more than 40 million minutes of interaction with the Mead brand name and products. The average time that video enthusiasts spent playing the game surpassed 4 minutes. The campaign ran for four weeks, but consumers can still find the game on MiniClip.com.

The campaign focused on “impressions made on the people we reached, rather than impressions, or number of click-throughs,” said GoFish CEO Matt Freeman. The campaign appeared on sites within the GoFish network that offer a “high-attention span environment where people are in a relaxed state of mind.”

Advergames are changing the ad game despite a rocky economy. The short and simple--although addictive--low-budget video games built around brands of product lines typically cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million, Freeman said. The games, which are mostly free to consumers, give companies a method to get into the minds of players who could reach into their pockets to buy the products--or at the least, influence a sale.

Aside from the advergame placed in MiniClip, Mead products were digitized and placed in virtual worlds such as WeeWorld.com, which boasts more than “24 million WeeMees” in the network. The company also built a Web site for the Battle of the Bands competition. The drum line promotion using Five Star notebooks asked kids to compete for the highest score by repeating sound and light patterns that increase in difficulty with each round.

Despite numbers that suggest Mead’s success, IDC Video Game Analyst Billy Pidgeon does not buy into the studies that suggest consumers accept ads and product placements in video games. “Brand and product placements can add to games, but it’s limited,” he said. “I’m a bit leery about getting too bullish about branded video games because people get crazy. They say it can make up for the extra money needed to design better games, and that’s not true.”

A boring game could make consumers think negatively about the brand. Pidgeon said. “Any money gained from product placement or brand advertising is ancillary revenue, but if it’s done well, it becomes a viable alternative to direct advertising and marketing,” he said.

As made evident in NPD Group’s latest numbers released late last week, consumers continue to hunger for video games--even during difficult economic times. NPD said the games industry remains on track to top $22 billion in 2008. U.S. video game hardware, software and accessories rose 10%, topping $2.91 billion in November. Software sales rose 10% to 2.91 billion in November, while hardware increased 10% to 1.21 billion, although U.S. retail sales fell 1.8%. 

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