It was just a matter of time before advertisements worked their way into video games. Given that a lot gamers fall into the highly coveted male 18-34 advertising demographic it was just a matter of time before publishers started trying to find new ways to put ads in the faces of gamers. With this in mind we talked to Nicholas Longano at Massive Incorporated, one of the leading pioneers in this field about their upcoming video game advertising network.GamingNexus: Who are the principle people behind Massive?Nicholas Longano:
The Massive executive team combines expertise in the video game industry, advertising and software development. Here are brief biographies of each executive:
Mitch Davis, CEO, has worked in technology and software development for 10 years, with experience in middleware software, online media, and general management. He is former Senior Vice President of Encyclopedia Britannica. There he headed Britannica.com and the CD Rom business units.
Katherine Hays, the Chief Operating Officer, has an extensive background in general management and finance specific to the media industry. She hails from Goldman Sachs where she worked as an Equity Research Analyst watching companies such as AOL Time Warner, Disney, and Vivendi Universal.
Nicholas Longano, the Chief Marketing Officer, has over 15 years in consumer packaged good marketing, with 4 years as General Manager and Head of Marketing for Vivendi Universal Games. He was recently President of MOJO Advertising in Los Angeles, forming a new video game division. There he worked with industry clients including Atari, ESPN Games, VUG and Groove Games.
Richard Skeen, the VP of Advertising Sales, has nearly 20 years experience in advertising and media sales, with a focus on both traditional print and on-line media, as well as media planning. He has worked at GQ, Outside Magazine, the New Yorker, and most recently YM and YM.com.
David Sturman, the VP of Technology, has over 25 years of experience in the technology industry. He is the past CTO at Acclaim Entertainment where he led the on-line games project. While at Acclaim he established means to coordinate software development across five independent game studios. David holds a PhD from the MIT Media Lab in computer graphics and animation. He is also a specialist in videogame technology and design, which he has taught as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
Claudia Batten, VP of Client Relations who posseses six years of experience in the technology sector, including four years as a corporate attorney specializing in contracts and technology law. Claudia has worked with large corporations in the telecommunications sector (specifically in mobile), banking and biotechnology; and she has specialist experience with intellectual property protection, e-commerce and privacy.GamingNexus: Can you give us a little history behind the company? Was it always about in-game advertising or did you start out as a normal firm and evolve into the gaming segment?Nicholas Longano:
Massive launched in October 2004 after two years of development on the network. Appreciating the huge opportunity dynamic in-game advertising provided for advertisers, gamers, and game publishers, Massive was founded to specifically address this opportunity. Prior to launching, Massive patented the system and software used to dynamically deliver the ads, put together a national team and partnered with video game industry leaders.GamingNexus: What game companies are you currently working with? Nicholas Longano:
Massive has signed long-term exclusive partnerships with videogame publishers and has developed the first videogame advertising network. We then sell advertising to global brands who want to reach the elusive male 18-34 year-old demographic. Our current publisher partnerships include Ubisoft, Vivendi Universal Games, Legacy Interactive, Atari, Codemasters, Eidos, and Funcom. Our advertisers are global brands in industries such as automotive, fast food, retail, telecom, and entertainment.GamingNexus: How does the process of matching games and advertisers work? Is it similar to how products are placed in movies and television?Nicholas Longano:
Dynamic in-game advertising works in much the same manner as matching TV spots to a television audience. Advertisers match their messaging and their creative to their target demographic. Massive’s network delivers that message, in real time, to the respective gamer audience.GamingNexus: Who came up with the idea of in-game advertising/what was be the first game to incorporate in-game advertising?Nicholas Longano:
The first network title to incorporate dynamic in-game advertising was Mall Tycoon. The idea first surfaced several years ago, when, and this is true for many games, it was noticed that publishers were serving fake ads and store-fronts in their videogames. Given the creative trouble that developers go to in order to make their games more realistic to their audience, immersing them in these worlds, dynamic in-game advertising seemed the most logical step for the industry.GamingNexus: In game advertising is starting to become ubiquitous. Do you think there’s a point of over saturation?Nicholas Longano:
Traditional product placement can cause brand-fatigue for advertisers, and over-expose a gamer. However, dynamic in-game advertising cannot. Because the advertising messages are constantly changing, it gives the game a fresh and entertaining experience each time gamers enter their game. Massive also conducts many play tests to ensure that gamers are never over-saturated to advertising messages, and work side by side with development teams to ensure that ads are placed in the most logical and natural areas in the game environment. Fit is very important, and we leave that to the creative eye of the game developers.GamingNexus: Has in game advertising reached the point where companies are coming to you looking to be placed in that next big game? Nicholas Longano:
Dynamic in-game advertising, not to be confused with product placement, provides many benefits for advertisers, publishers, and gamers. For advertisers, it provides them the first ever ability to directly target the coveted 18-34 male audience, which is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach with traditional media. Today, this audience is spending more time playing video games than watching prime time television. Over 70% of males play video games. For publishers, it provides them an opportunity to generate revenues from the ‘lost sales’. Every entertainment medium enjoys several revenue streams to offset production costs. Until now, video games have had to rely only on retail sell-through. For the gaming audience, dynamic in-game advertising adds to the realism of the game, and adds to the immersion into the game world.GamingNexus: What's the weirdest placement you've tried to arrange?Nicholas Longano:
As noted earlier, we don’t arrange product placements. We work with global advertisers to run their advertising campaigns across a network of premier videogame titles. Advertisers that have traditionally reached the male 18-34 year old demographic are looking to Massive to put their messages in front of those target customers where they currently spend the majority of their entertainment hours—playing video games. GamingNexus: Have you ever had a situation where the placement was a little over the top? (Something like Sam Fisher breaking out too Advil pills after a mission)Nicholas Longano:
Each game’s creative development team ensures that all ads are placed in an appropriate manner that makes sense to the story and to the environment.GamingNexus: Will in game ad placements eventually subsidize the production of games enough to lower the costs of games or will it just help sustain current prices in the face of increasing development costs?Nicholas Longano:
Dynamic in-game advertising will be a major advertising medium, and hence, source of revenue for publishers and developers, alike. With dynamic in-game advertising, publishers can earn significant new revenues of $1-2 per box sold. In the past, games with high levels of replayability have sold at the same price as those with a few hours of gameplay. Now, developers and publishers can be rewarded for those efforts, and gamers can benefit by getting more game play for their dollar. GamingNexus: Do you see in the future gathering information and sending ads targeted strictly for an individual gamer? For example, I was passing a billboard in Grand Theft Auto 5, what I would see would be different from what someone else would see?Nicholas Longano:
Because we don’t collect any individual data, we do not directly target on such a level. We can aggregate and geo-target to a particular demographic that’s playing a particular title. So someone in New York, can see a different series of ads, at a different time, from someone in Chicago or Los Angeles.GamingNexus: There seems to be some backlash in some sites about advertising in games. What's your reaction to that?Nicholas Longano:
Based on consumer research from several independent and respected sources, when done correctly, as we do in the Massive Network, gamers react very positively to dynamic in-game advertising. All the ads we serve fit the context of the game, and locations are set by the game’s own developers. This proves to be a formula for success, and will continue to enhance gamers’ experiences with these titles. GamingNexus: How have companies reacted to the possibility of having their product advertised in a game?Nicholas Longano:
Companies are tremendously enthusiastic about the idea of dynamic in-game advertising.
We’d like to thank Mr. Longano for taking the time to talk to us about what Massive has planned and to Sarah Cowen for helping to coordinate the interview. Like most gamers we’re a little wary about our games becoming yet another place for advertisers to reach us but we’ll wait and see how it’s implemented before we pass judgment. You can find more information about Massive Incorporated at their website