Imagine the Xbox dashboard, which is the interface gamers see when they first turn on their Xbox. Currently on the dashboard gamers see ads for games, credit cards, pizza and sandwiches with two pieces of fried chicken instead of bread. While incredibly delicious looking, these ads are passive and only the ads that include words like “Halo” and “Free Xbox Points” have hit double-digit click-through rates. Sure, the ads can support full motion video that entices gamers to purchase turbo charged sodas, but they are not tailored to individuals. They don’t react to facial gestures, gender, voice or body movement. We’re predicting they will within a year of Kinect’s launch. We’ve spoken in depth to the Xbox team and their engineers are looking at several ideas similar to this. However there is a negative (or positive, it depends on how you look at it) spin to gesture based game advertising. The world of static/dynamic in-game advertising will need to adapt or prepare for a drastic pricing change.
Similar to the life cycle of online banners, in-game advertising will begin a shift towards budget consensus media planners. Static/dynamic ad spots in video games will never die, just like online banners will always litter our browsers. But they will become the bargain bin of in-game opportunities, taking a backseat to gesture based ads. What makes more sense to us is to tap the social element of Xbox Live and introduce gesture based dashboard ads that allow “parties” to be formed around the ad. Xbox Live has a novel social feature where gamers can start parties with their friends. This party feature allows for quick multiplayer sessions with a group of friends and the only chatter coming through your headset will be members in your party. Apply that feature to a dashboard advertisement and now you have an interactive, engaging experience with a social twist. Let’s use Coke as an example.
On my Xbox Live dashboard I see an ad for Coke promising me some form of an incentive. This could be new downloadable content for my favorite games (of course this smart ad should know what games I have in my library already) or the incentive could simply be Xbox points to buy music, movies, etc. I click the Coke ad, invite three friends to join me and Kinect sets up a four way split-screen video feed. Now we can all see each other in our respective living rooms. Each person picks a letter and contorts their body’s to spell out C-O-K-E. Kinect monitors for accuracy, takes a group snapshot and uploads it to each persons Facebook page. Each member in the party receives the promised incentive and perhaps we’re automatically entered to win something bigger via Coke’s Facebook fan page. That is how brands need to interact with gamers. They are a highly interactive, socially driven community of early adopters with acute sensitivity to bullshit. A billboard ad in a racing game is not engaging, the return isn’t that great and gamers expect more. Brands should be experimenting with ideas like this now.
Why not create dashboard ads that take snapshots of my face and make them the centerpiece of the ad? And when my friends turn on their Xbox they see the ad with my face on it. Or better yet, I turn on Kinect and record myself doing a silly dance. The ad then becomes a Dance Dance Revolution style ad with me as the star. It sends challenges to my friends on Xbox Live to compete against my dance moves. So the question becomes: Why are agencies and brands choosing to tap this captive audience of gamers (34/m/$78K h.h.i.) with boring 90’s web advertising techniques?
It’s our job to come up with innovative campaigns like these, but until a brand pulls out their check book, opportunities like this are simply conversations at the moment. But trust us, these conversations are happening right now, with large brands. And the company that gets it right first, wins. As Xbox Live and Playstation Network become more sophisticated with technologies like Move and Kinect, the possibilities to reach audiences in new, innovative ways increase. Gesture based ads are coming, without question. And there will be brands. You game?
Contributed by Wes Keltner – Creative Director, Gun