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November, 24th 2009

Belated posting of column on advertising in video games

– Liz Mair

So, here's a bit from my column on this, which ran in The Hill last week.  Click over there for the full text.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, to a then-unparalleled extent, leveraged the most cutting-edge technologies to reach potential supporters, organize them, raise money from them, and ultimately, get elected by them. MyBarackObama and mobile were two such groundbreaking technlogies, and with over a year having passed, many in the political world are contemplating what the “next big thing” might be. The answer could be something you’ve only vaguely heard of, it at all: Video game advertising.

Obama used it in 2008 for a couple of weeks only, and to a limited extent geographically, just before the election. As of mid-October 2008, Obama ads were running in 18 video games. Those games included “Guitar Hero,” “Madden ’09” and “Burnout Paradise.” According to Obama campaign officials, the ads were targeted to gamers in 10 swing states: Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado — so if you lived elsewhere, you likely would not have seen them. Even if you heard about them, however, you might not have taken them seriously. 

At the time that the ads popped up, some political operatives wondered whether they would in fact help Obama win or just help him raise awareness of early voting with 15-year-old boys. Undoubtedly, adolescents did see the ads, but those quick to deride video game advertising or dismiss it as a frivolous expenditure might want to note that Obama’s campaign specifically chose games that, in its assessment, would enable them to reach 18- to 34-year-old men.

But they might have targeted other groups as an alternative. A huge diversity of gaming platforms now exists, ranging from home consoles like the X-Box to hand-held, portable consoles like the DS or the PSP (with even the iPhone fitting that loose description) to online platform games, such as those on Facebook. They attract a large number of gamers with various preferences. According to a February 2008 CNN report, “Studies and sales data have shown that women are more likely to play hand-held casual games, such as the Nintendo DS, along with social oriented games such as ‘The Sims.’”

Indeed, in the case of “The Sims,” women reportedly make up more than 55 percent of players...

(more at The Hill, like I say) [intro]

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