Brands blend in-game ads with consoles

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A free demo of 'Madden NFL 12' features a Facebook code to enter a Chevy Cruze sweepstakes
A free demo of 'Madden NFL 12' features a Facebook code to enter a Chevy Cruze sweepstakes

Chevrolet is one company putting a fresh spin on the stalwart direct marketing tactic of online sweepstakes by asking consumers to play a game before entering. 

The carmaker rewarded consumers who completed a specific play in a free demo of Electronic Arts' ultra-popular "Madden NFL 12" game not only with a satisfying touchdown dance, but also a code for the game's Facebook page for a chance to win a 2012 Chevy Cruze. Chevy's in-game initiative is one example of a spree of brands targeting gamers with programs more engrossing than the "Grand Theft Auto" billboard of old.

Instead of beseeching consumers to download the demo to their Microsoft Xbox or Sony PlayStation console and participate in the sweepstakes, Chevy played coy. It stashed the sweepstakes opportunity in a bonus video stowed in the demo. While some consumers may have overlooked the video, gamers had to watch it entirely to understand the process.

For brands to run successful console campaigns, they have to cater to the target consumer, says Bill Young, managing director of EA Ready, the unit responsible for the ad partnership.

Ashley Swartz, SVP of marketing at Digitas and co-lead of the digital agency's iTV practice, says a danger for brands trying to market to hardcore gamers is balancing a value exchange with noise reduction. She says that in-game static advertising can result in high efficacy and brand affinity, but that gamers aren't likely to pause "Call of Duty" to enter a sweepstakes.

Instead of integrating in-game interactive programs, brands such as Lipton and Degree Women have taken advantage of Microsoft Xbox Live and Sony PlayStation Network domains to create interactive hubs that operate outside of specific game play.

Lipton partnered with Internet radio company Pandora for "The Natural Side of Music" campaign that featured Lipton-branded video interviews with music artists such as Usher. 

The campaign called on consumers to further engage by sampling Lipton-branded playlists on Pandora, extending the campaign's lifespan, says Robert Aksman, cofounder and chief experience design officer of BrightLine, the firm that designed the 

While Lipton was able to measure impressions, Degree Women tracked conversions through its "Get Into the Move" video series that rolled out to Xbox gamers in June. As consumers completed each workout, they received "MotionMiles" points to redeem via a branded Facebook app for a chance to win prizes such as Degree Women products or a trip to Hawaii. 

"The inclusion of the codes was important for the brand, as they were a powerful reward for viewers and let the brand track viewers across channels, from TV to online, further reinforcing and validating proven cross-channel behavior," says Heather Mitchell, marketing communications manager at Degree Women's parent company Unilever, via email. 

Degree Women extended the campaign's lifespan by allowing consumers to permanently download the workout videos to their Xboxes. Young said brands can also lengthen campaigns by adding location-based initiatives to in-game marketing plans.

"Let's say you live in a town that has five Chevy dealerships," he says. "If you go to check in at all five, you get a Chevy Camaro in the next 'Need for Speed' game that's exclusive. The only people that get that car are people who have checked in."

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