What is Advergaming & How To Use It To Boost Sales

The birth of new digital marketing strategies, like advergaming, is the product of the evolving technology we have today. Gaming platforms are now hubs for a wide demographic where brands can catch the attention of their leads. It’s an out-of-the-box idea coined in the 1990s that has successfully launched several brands to a 200% increase in brand awareness and soaring sales. 

If you’re ready to sail away from traditional ad strategies, discover how the fusion of creative game development and digital marketing attracts your ideal customers in a fun and non-intrusive way. 

What is Advergaming?

Advergaming is a form of advertising in which companies create brand-focused video games to launch a product or boost brand awareness. Advergames are customized based on how brands want to present themselves to their target audiences and showcase the features of their products. They are usually free to play and customized to direct users to enjoy the game and eventually be more interested in purchasing a brand’s products.

Though advergames are prevalent today, the earliest concept dates back in the 1980s using the arcade gaming consoles like Atari 3600. Anthony Giallourakis coined the term advergames in 1999 and later purchased the website www.advergames.com, which became the hub of advergames of different brands in the world in the 1990s. 

The concept behind advergaming is its efficiency in reaching a wide audience, especially those who are active gamers. Companies have several ways of using advergaming, such as:

The main goal of advergames is to build brand awareness and create positive associations with a brand’s products. As brand awareness increases, so does customer engagement, which often leads to increased sales.

In-game ads vs. Advergaming

The evolution of video games from the 90s to the present also involved different marketing campaigns of brands that bred to in-game ads and advergaming. They are both advertisements in video games but in different formats. 

Fortnite X Nike Collaboration

In-game advertisements are marketing elements displayed in the game and do not involve any interaction with the user. The brand logo or product is usually mentioned on billboards, banners, and buildings in the gaming environment. 

Among the earliest in-game advertisements is found in Crazy Taxi where the establishments of Pizza Hut, KFC, FILA, and Tower Records are the common destination of most passengers in the game. Another example is Fortnite, where brand logos and products are on display.

Advergaming (brand game), on the other hand, is a brand-focused game where the main character or the overall gaming environment is about a brand's product or services.

For example, a burger joint may utilize a burger stacking game as part of the promotion of its new burger line. Donut Papi is a local brand in Australia which used the game concept of Candy Crush with the design of their donuts. The rewards are redeemable donuts that players can get from any of Donut Papi's physical stores.

Elements of an Advergame

An advergame is usually a short game with a simple but creative way of letting customers enjoy it while learning more about the brand. Here are the elements in an advergame that can help balance fun and brand awareness, resulting in a positive user experience:

What Does “The Scarecrow” Tell Us About Chipotle? | The New Yorker
Chipotle Scarecrow's impressive storytelling on how they serve their food.

5 Successful advergames from past to present

From Atari 3600 to VR, advergames also evolved based on the evolution of the gaming consoles. Discover the first and the latest advergames that successfully launched brands and their promotions.

 #1 Pepsi Invaders

Taking the game concept of Space Invaders, Pepsi Invaders is an arcade game releasedby Coca-Cola Company to salesmen during a convention in the 1980s. It is a fixed-shooter game that targets spaceships with a PEPSI formation. Though it is not recognized as a form advertising back in the day, Pepsi Invaders is among the earliest form of advergames that is played on Atari 3600. 

The game has been controversial because when the player wins, the game will prompt Coke Wins, which is a diss to its long-time rival Pepsi. 

#2 M&M's The Lost Formulas 

M&M's The Lost Formulas is the first advergame of M&M’s in 2000 developed by Boston Animation. It can be played on both Mac and Windows and has the same concept and math problems as the iconic Crash Bandicoot. The plot of the game is to collect as many M&M’s as possible while riding a vehicle and answer simple math problems with difficulty level for ages 5-10. 

#3 Chex Quest

Chex Quest is one of the most successful advergames that won the Golden EFFIE Award for Advertising Effectiveness (1996) and the Golden Reggie Award for Promotional Achievement (1998). Chex is a cereal brand that promotes its flavored cereals through characters that defeats aliens. 

The plot of Chex Quest is a first-person shooter game similar to DOOM but in a non-violent environment, The game is still accessible today and has been upgraded to be compatible to the latest gaming console versions.

#4 Chipotle Scarecrow

Chipotle Scarecrow is a short film and an arcade-style game created by Moonbot Studios for the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle. The game location is in Crow Foods Corporation Factory and the scarecrow must correct the mistakes of the corporation while being wary of the robots. 

The Scarecrow is free to download on Apple App Store and can be played in iPhone, Ipad, and iPod Touch. The film and the game touch on the issue of how people should know where their food is coming from and how Chipotle aims to provide food with integrity.

The reward of those who complete the Chipotle scarecrow is a redeemable food reward that they can get at any of its branches in the US, UK, and Canada. 

H3: #5 Chupa Chups Zool

Nothing would be more heavily advertised than Zool and their collaboration with Chuoa Chups. It is an arcade game made to be a rival of Sonic The Hedgehog in 1992. As a sponsor, Chupa Chups is featured in one of its series but was later removed as they stopped the sponsorship for the game. 

Aside from the ones mentioned above, other brands that have newsworthy advergames are Burger King. Volkswagen Polo, Doritos, Magnum, and Donut Papi

How advergaming helps boost brand awareness and engagement

Advergaming can be an extremely effective marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. When done correctly, advergames can engage potential customers, increase brand awareness, and even generate sales. Some of the primary benefits of advergaming include:

What are the drawbacks of advergaming?

Behind all the fun and creativity of advergames are some potential risks. These include:

One thought to ponder is that not everyone enjoys playing games. While many people will happily spend hours playing an engaging advergame, others will quickly lose interest and move on. With that, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of advergaming before deciding if it is the right marketing strategy for your business.

How to Create or conceptualize an Advergame

If you’re ready to take on some risks and dip your toes in advergaming, you should plan it carefully before dealing with a game developer. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before creating your advergame. Here are some tips:

  1. Keep it simple: Your advergame should be easy to understand and play. If it is too complicated, people might quickly lose interest. Base the overall gaming environment on your target audience. For example, a cereal company may target kids ages 5-10 and utilize simple math-based games. 
  2. Make it engaging: The most challenging part in making an advergame is to make it engaging for your target audience. It must have some game elements that would hook them to play until they get a reward or top the leaderboard. 
  3. Strategize the marketing for the game and the product: Just because you have a game doesn’t mean it will do all the marketing for you. You also need to market your advergame and draw more attention to it aside from the promotion of your product service. 
  4. Build a community and social following: Whether it’s a hashtag or a discord group, building a social sharing or community from the game can help spread your brand name for a long time. The buzz about the game may fade, but the community may stay as long as they share the same interest in your brand. 
  5. Make it professional: Your advergame should look professional and polished. If it looks amateurish, people will not take it seriously. Your advergame represents your brand and your vision for your products. Chipotle Scarecrow is a good example of positive messaging regarding a global issue which is sustainability in food industry and how they take part in making it better. 

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