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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Global ad network eyeballs gamers
Screenshot of GTA: San Andreas
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A new global network of media, games, and ad agencies aims to make it easier to put real adverts into PC and video games and track their impact.

The group, IGA Worldwide, has gathered ad experts and will use its own technology to ensure ads that appear in games are more effective.

Its technology means that advertisers will be able to automatically update and control ad campaigns in titles.

In-game advertising is seen as a way to reach the key 18 to 34-year-old group.

IGA Partners says its global consortium of industry experts, and its proprietary ad-serving technology, will help co-ordinate the potentially massive advertising efforts in gaming globally.

Recent studies indicate that product recall within games is as high as 70%, and these figures are simply unheard of in classic advertising media
Christian-Alexander Vry, IGA Partners
Its ad-serving technology, which has been under development and trials for a year, will also match up in-game ad campaigns with real-world ones.

Eighteen to 34-year-olds are the most sought-after audience in ad terms. But increasingly they are eschewing traditional forms of media entertainment - like TV - for gaming.

Many people have grown up playing computer games, have remained gamers into their 20s and 30s, but now have spending power.

Games are increasingly becoming part of people's leisure and entertainment choices, with more consoles finding homes in the living room instead of the bedroom.

"The advertising industry as a whole has been slow in recognising the continuing migration of the highly valued 18 to 34 male demographic from prime time TV to PC and video games, and this is something which IGA Partners is keen to rectify," said IGA's European chief, Justin Townsend.

Next-gen gamers

In the US, men alone are now spending more on games than they do on music, according to recent research by marketing analyst, Nielsen Entertainment.

With the growing use of technologies, like personal video recorders (PVRs) which let people skip ads, the advertising industry is keen to use gaming as a vehicle for their wares.

Advertisers measure "eyeball hours" - the amount of time they have to target audiences with their messages.

The hit US series The Sopranos last year generated more than 143 million eyeball hours, said IGA Partners' Christian-Alexander Vry.

That compared to more than 400 million eyeball hours generated by top game NFL Madden, he said.

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Some gamers say ads make games more realistic
"Recent studies indicate that product recall within games is as high as 70%, and these figures are simply unheard of in classic advertising media."

Using always-on, net connections games can be updated automatically, or in real-time, so that they are tailored to a gamer's habits and preferences, or changed to be relevant to the country in which the gamer is playing.

The group will also be able to co-ordinate and track ad metrics and other data seen as highly valuable, much more effectively, it said.

British in-game ad company Hive Partners announced it had joined the international network, as experts in product placement in games.

"It's been incredibly exciting helping to kick-start this new industry over the past couple of years with Hive, but it's been a dot within a dot compared with what is yet to come," said Hive's chief Ed Bartlett, now in charge of IGA Partners' European publishing side.

"My feeling is that in-game advertising will help to finally establish video games as the dominant entertainment medium of the 21st Century."

"PC and video games are a $28bn global entertainment medium generating billions of eyeball hours within highly immersive and emotionally stimulating environments, from photorealistic cities to real race circuits," said Mr Bartlett.

"Advertising absolutely has a place here, and even helps to add to the realism of such titles."

According to research by the group, real-life adverts in games help gamers feel that a title is more realistic.

Games and the machines on which they are played getting more and more sophisticated. This year sees the launch of the first of the next-generation games consoles, Xbox 360, and Sony's PlayStation 3 will be hot on its heels.

With more connectivity and functionality built into the machines, advertisers will increasingly be able to tactically tailor ads and products to suit gamers.

Even before the next-generation consoles hit the shelves, current gaming technology is still doing well in sales.

Sales in video game hardware, software and accessories rose by 23% in the first quarter of 2005 in the US, according to market research firm NPD Group.

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