EBWorld Taps Rich Media
To Sell Computer Games

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Lara Croft, the sexy animated heroine of computer game Tomb Raider, is getting face time with even more fans through a rich-media banner campaign developed for EBWorld.com, an online gaming site.

The click-through rate is 1.3 percent, much higher than the average rich media click rate of 0.6 percent. Conversion-to-sale rates were unavailable.

EBWorld, the online extension of retailer Electronics Boutique, Westchester, PA, launched the rich-media banner ads last month to promote the latest version of the game - Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.

The timing of the campaign and its placement on game sites such as IGN.com, Allgames.com and Hotgames.com, as well as 24/7 Media, was designed to take advantage of game enthusiasts' interest and anticipation of the new versions of both popular games before, during and immediately following their release. EBWorld's marketing manager, Nathan Solomon, likened game software releases to feature film releases. "As soon as games hit, people want to know," he said.

Sales of software games tend to spike highest around their release, so placing banners from which consumers can order product in front of consumers at that crucial time was central to the ad strategy.

I-frontier, Philadelphia, PA, is the ad agency for the effort, and Bluestreak.com, Newport, RI, provided the rich-media transaction technology.

"Three to four weeks before and after release is where they see most of their sales," said Jeremy Lockhorn, executive producer at I-frontier. "One of the things we wanted to do was bring the hot games right on the Web sites where they would be talking about them. We wanted to get right in front of people so they could order it right there."

Through Bluestreak's technology, consumers can click on the rich-media banner and buy merchandise by filling out and submitting an online form without leaving the site. The banners allow users to click on the game software icon and drag and drop it into a shopping cart graphic. When the icon is dropped in the cart, an order form automatically pops up.

For EBWorld, the technology provides a clean, efficient way to increase sales.

"It's a direct connection to their e-commerce engine from their advertising itself," said Annette Tonti, president and co-founder of Bluestreak.

The site also can change elements of the banner - including the creative, the offer and the product itself - quickly, and with less cost and programming complications.

"We've taken the programming out so that laypeople can build and modify these ads," said Tonti. "We're taking the high costs out of doing this, and giving I-frontier and EBWorld a way to modify the products and the offer on the fly without any extra costs."

The EBWorld campaign is the first rich media work I-frontier has done for the gaming company, but it signals the beginning of a long-term partnership, according to Lockhorn.

On the heels of the ads for Tomb Raider, which run for the next two months, are rich-media banners that begin running this week for The Sims, an offshoot of the legendary computer game Sim City, in which players created and ran simulated cities.

"We're going to blow out a lot of impressions with The Sims," said Solomon. And rich banners for Diablo II, a highly anticipated role-playing game scheduled for a Spring release, will follow shortly thereafter.

The ability for some computers to handle rich-media advertising is a potential challenge, but technology should not get in the way and ultimately degrade the advertiser's brand image, according to Tonti.

"We've taken pride in the fact that our technology is not going to be bothersome to the end user. We do 'bandwidth-sniffing,'" she said, which she described as testing the bandwidth of computers running its ads and serving up an appropriate ad in either rich-media or HTML format. "We live in a heterogeneous environment these days, and not everyone can handle rich media."

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