Mirroring the real world, the landscapes of video games are already quite cluttered with branded billboards, ads and product placements. And with the in-game ad market pegged to reach US$400 million by 2009, it was only a matter of time before a company evolved a slicker, more streamlined form of in-game commerce.
Enter GET Interactive. Thanks to the proliferation of web-enabled consoles like the Xbox 360, whose online Xbox Live community has more than six million members, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based company was able to develop a new program dubbed Ad·Venture that takes in-game, TV and online marketing and retail to a new level.
Here’s how it works: Players tooling around in their favorite video games might spy a snazzy pair of sunglasses on one of the game’s avatars and think they’d like to own them too. A small GET icon will appear on the glasses, and with a click of the controller, the console’s internet browser window opens up on the web page of the retailer selling those very shades. The player can then snap them up right then and there or check out other items available on the retailer’s site.
GET is in the process of hooking up with game developers to launch the application in the mainstream market, and it’s already landed gaming giant Sega, which inked a deal with the fledging company last summer. There is no timeline yet for the Sega game and neither Sega nor GET CEO Rick Harrison is giving an inch about its content.
However, Harrison says the tech will permit branding on all of the historically anonymous objects and backgrounds found in games. Additionally, he says Ad·Venture will permit advertising, manufacturing and retail partners to forge closer connections with key consumers because it operates on a pull model – the game user actively decides to first enable the opt-in mechanism that tags the objects for sale with the GET icon, and then to find out more about the goods by clicking on it.
For this reason, Harrison reports no problems with hooking up content, retail or promotional partners for the venture, and GET manages these relationships, coordinating the efforts of all partners.
Since signing the Sega deal, GET has inked contracts with Universal Music Group and feature film distributor Overture Films. Harrison expects that the first major use of Ad·Venture will probably be in a music video with the GET icon placed on a pair of sneakers and other fashionable items like apparel and cell phones.
‘Ultimately, our goal is to make this work for any form of entertainment,’ says Harrison. ‘Sports, music videos, television, video games, any type of entertainment can be turned into a potential interactive branding format. It beats cramming another ad down the consumer’s throat.’ He’s also not ruling out applying the tech to younger-skewing fare that hits the tween/teen crowd, but admits existing regulations dealing with kids and online advertising might make it a bit more difficult to get something off the ground for those target demos.