Is Social Gaming the Next Big Thing In Advertising?

We know that ad spending on social gaming has increased by 60% since 2009, that 56 million Americans play social games, and mobile phone applications and games are continuing to grow in popularity so it just makes sense that advertisers would want to pay more attention to social gaming.

Robert Tomkinson, Playfish’s senior director of global marketing, explained that “What [media buyers and advertisers] want is massive reach, they want targeting, they want performance.” And they can have all of this, especially through the use of ads in social gaming. Tomkinson was a speaker at the Social Gaming Summit and had the opportunity to explain why social gaming advertising is growing and why it will be a success.

One reason he gave for social game advertising’s success is the idea that advertising in games is about engagement, not eyeballs. He gave the example of the Facebook game Farmville and how users were given the option to plant a branded crop, Cascadian Farm blueberries. This may seem like a simple concept but in 500 million cases, Farmville users decided to purchase the branded blueberries opposed to an unbranded crop. The use of branded items in social games allows the gamer to actually engage with the brand instead of just viewing it on a TV screen or magazine page.

Photo Credit: Pichaus

Another reason social gaming advertising is so successful is the fact that social games reach the Facebook (and other social media sites) audience. Facebook has 500 million users and the average American spends more time on Facebook than on Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Microsoft, Wikipedia, and Amazon combined. This high usage gives advertisers the opportunity to reach a large audience in a very simple way.

Tomkinson also mentions that some games have bigger audiences than prime time TV. Close to 30 million people play Farmville, the most popular social game. Last week Dancing With the Stars, the most popular prime time TV show, had close to 24 million viewers. The fact that social games are mostly free for users to play, simple to play, and are easy to access plays a big role in the audience the games are reaching.

Social games are also expanding their advertising efforts to the physical world. For example, 7-11 sold products that allowed Farmville game users to access a code from the bought product, perform a task in the game, and unlock a 7-11 virtual good. Over 3 million codes were redeemed and played in the game.

Brands and advertising in social games can do more than just showcase their name on a billboard. Brands are actually now becoming part of the game. In the social game It Girl, Old Navy had a virtual store that allowed users to purchase clothing with real-world offers. This gave Old Navy the chance to put their brand right into the game and make the company stand out above the rest.

One last advantage to advertising in social games is the idea that brands and companies will often reward players for using their games. By choosing to use a branded item in a game users may have the opportunity to win virtual currency, unlock new levels, or play the games for free.

Photo Credit: Mashable

It seems that social gaming advertising has many advantages for companies to increase their brand awareness in more ways than just having their logo flash across the screen. With the popularity and success of social gaming it seems that they will be here to stay for awhile and it will be interesting to see which companies jump on the bandwagon next.

Check out “6 Reasons Why Social Games Are the Next Advertising Frontier” to read more

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