Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do ads falling in a forest make a sound?

You cannot have a successful marketing campaign without metrics. It's a logical impossibility. Metrics, either quantitative or qualitative, form the foundation for decision-making and the absence of metrics means you're flying blind. A marketing decision without any form of measurability is just risky. Pay some kids to hand out flyers for you and chances are, you'll find some flyers in a nearby trashcan.

This is why marketers salivate over numbers. We are generally risk-adverse. Sure, there are some of us that take risks and are first adopters of the latest marketing tactics, even if those tactics have no measurability. However, the majority of us stay out of the water until it looks safe. The success of Google (and search in general) was no doubt due in part to the incredible tracking capabilities of their advertising programs. The result is a whole new line item on many marketing budgets.

Now I'm not going to vouch for the accuracy of any of these metrics, but what I am saying is that a medium is not marketing friendly until it has metrics. In traditional media, TV has ratings and print has subscribers. So the challenge for any new marketing tactic is trying to figure out how to measure success. Until that happens, money stays tantalizingly distant.

This is why I'm glad to hear that IGA Worldwide, an in-game advertising company, has created a system to measure the effectiveness of their advertising. This is nothing new. Acclaim's partner, Massive Incorporated, already has a robust measurement system in place. This is a signal to me, however, that the industry is taking another step towards maturity. Because of this move, some of the risk-adverse marketers will begin to move gingerly towards the water.

But this is not enough. The data that will be available from these companies will show that ads were shown and to whom. However, there is still a disconnect for the advertiser. Someone saw the ad but did it really sway them to do anything? What is remarkable about search is that it often can be traced right to the sale. With in-game ads, the tracking stops at the ad impression, which is not very different than television.

What I would like to see is an even more robust system. In-game ads are served online to one of the most web-savvy audiences in the world. Let's solicit some gamers to allow additional tracking of their behaviors, such as online purchases or simple site visits. A campaign that's supposed to drive users to a promotional site will then have that critical measure of success. An online retailer can get an actual read on their return on investment. Although the advertisers that are strictly offline may be out of luck, even they will benefit from the insights gained from their online counterparts. I think this is when we'll really start to see in-game ads take off.

Oh and to answer the title question: No and ads in a forest are a bad idea, not enough foot traffic.

[ By the way, if you didn't know, I do not favor too many in-game ads in retail games. I think if you paid for something, you shouldn't be bombarded with advertising. I do, however, support in-game ads for free games (such as BOTS [I'm shameless!]). I think the game industry has room for offerings based mostly on ad-supported revenue. These will essentially be like the tv model and the model of many high-quality online destinations. Everyone would be a winner in that scenario. ]

via Adrants.

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