Geeky gamers converged with DKNY-clad ad execs Thursday for the Advertising in Games Forum, touted as the first-ever conference of its kind devoted to the placement of ads in videogames.
"This really is the next step in the evolution of advertising," said Jonathan Epstein, an agent in UTA's Games and Interactive Group, during the opening panel.
Speakers at the forum, held at Gotham's Metropolitan Pavilion, argued that the massive amount of ad revenue earned by newspapers and television is disproportionate to the amount of time people actually spend interacting with them, as many consumers -- especially young males -- have turned to videogames. Keynote speaker Mitchell Davis, CEO of Massive Incorporated, an ad agency that specializes in placing ads in videogames, said gamers racked up a whopping 30 billion hours of game play in 2004.
Advertising in games can include in-game produce placements, ads on Web sites where people play games over the Internet or advergaming -- in which the whole purpose of the game is to promote a product.
Davis showed a clip from Ubisoft's "Splinter Cell," a stealth action game in which the player walks by a Diet Sprite machine and a poster for Paramount pic "The Longest Yard."
Mike Goodman, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group, noted that vidgames are an ideal advertising medium because they have a particularly captive audience. Unlike watching television or reading a newspaper, playing a game does not allow a person to do anything else except listen to music.
Moreover, only about 10% of games make money, and ad revenue could help make up for losses.
Davis said Massive's research on in-game ads, conducted in partnership with Nielsen, revealed that many game players enjoy ads because they make the game's settings seem more realistic.
"You want realism," Davis said. "You don't want to see a fake ad."
Ads can even be put on games played on mobile devices.
"Every cell phone that is being sold in the market today is game-capable," said Anita Frazier, and entertainment industry analyst with the NPD Group.
In other vidgame tie-in news, four bands -- Taking Back Sunday, Jurassic 5, the Explosion and Go Betty Go -- have each written and recorded an original song inspired by one of the four lead characters in the "Fantastic Four" vidgame, a tie-in with this summer's Fox pic. Songs will be played during the vidgame in instrumental form, and the songs will have lyrics when played in four character-specific trailers for the game, which will available online this month and next and be included in the game's bonus features.