I’ve been bullish about games as an advertising medium since I met Kathryn Hays of Massive, Inc and David Fleck of Linden Lab (Creator of Second Life) at Forrester’s Consumer Forum in 2005. And I think Google potentially entering this business brings significant credibility to the medium. Even though the gaming audience has become much more mainstream than most marketers realize, many traditional companies — banks, telecoms firms, healthcare providers — have left experimenting with game marketing to media and entertainment and CPG firms. I believe these firms are waiting on three basic things before dipping their toes into games as an advertising medium:
*Ad standards — what will ad advertiser get for his money when he buys an in-game ad? Ideally, these standards would be consistent across any in-game ad network (Massive/MSN, Adscape/Google) and would be comparable to standards in other mediums.
*Results/case studies — does the medium work for other marketers? The more in-game advertising firms can publish successful results from existing campaigns, the more advertisers they will attract to their medium.
*Proposed solutions — how can games work to accomplish a marketer’s goals? Because most marketers today are so unfamiliar with game marketing, they need in-game advertising firms (or their existing agencies) to propose ways that game marketing could work for them.
So what does the probable Google deal do in terms of moving these three needs forward? My take is that Adscape certainly continues Google’s expansion into other media outside of the Web. But it doesn’t imply much change to Google’s existing business structure. What it does do is justify to hesitant marketers that games are once and for all a viable advertising channel. And it pressures vendors in the game marketing space (including Google) to make their efforts around standards, results, and marketing solutions real.