By Mike Beirne

September 15, BrandWeek

Just how effective is that Burger King ad in the game NFL Street? Marketers have often wondered. Considering that more than a third (36%) of gamers actually bought, talked about or sought information about a product after seeing an ad in a videogame, per Nielsen Games, a case can be made that they are very effective.

Not long ago, advertising within videogames was looked upon as an exciting new venue to attract a "lost boys" demographic that had stopped avidly watching TV. However, the excitement wore off for some as the ROI for such an unit was difficult to prove.

Looking to get a temperature check among today's gamers, Nielsen Games polled 534 active videogame players last month on Brandweek's behalf (both are units of Nielsen). Of those surveyed, 11% said they purchased a brand that was advertised in a game. Some 19% said they talked about it after seeing an ad and 10% said they recommended the product. Eleven percent said they sought more information. (While no direct comparison rates were offered against other forms of media, 1% of consumers exposed to direct response advertising eventually buy the advertised product.)

Coke was most recalled by the Nielsen panel, then Nike, Burger King, Axe, Pepsi and Pontiac. "Burger King's goal is always to engage gamers in the BK brand through a medium they love," said Brian Gies, vp-marketing at Burger King, Miami. "Throughout, it's been about knowing the target audience [young adult males] and finding relevant ways to reach them through great consumer experiences."

Burger King isn't using games to sell Whoppers, but to pursue what it calls "extended brand interaction." The fast feeder has advertised in top sellers like NFL Street, provided players hidden codes to access the "Burger King Challenge" in Need for Speed and inserted the King into Fight Night. The creepy King served as a corner man that players can pick for their fighters. The company also creates its own proprietary games for the Xbox. Activision's Guitar Hero series was the most popular game among participants who remembered specific advertisers, followed by Need for Speed, the Madden football series, Grand Theft Auto titles, the NCAA Football series and Tony Hawk games.

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