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Dunkin' for Advergames

Justin Davis

Game Daily, January 16, 2005


It would be easy to doubt a company's claim that it invented the concept of advergames. After all, it's a hot business that's only going to get hotter as more and more major consumer corporations realize they're having difficulty reaching young adults. Any marketing firm could lay claim to pioneering the concept, but when marketing company BrandGames pointed out that their first advergames weren't distributed on the net, and were instead issued on floppy disks, any doubt of the company's history was erased.

Still, the relevancy of a company's history in such a fast-moving, ever-evolving business is questionable. BrandGames' success late last year with a web game focused around Dunkin' Donuts' Turbo Ice coffee drink is perhaps the best indication that the company's thoughts on the advergame industry are worth paying attention to.

GameDaily BIZ spoke to BrandGames' Executive Vice President, Marketing, Jim Wexler about the success of the company's Dunkin' Donuts campaign, and the future of the advergame business.

Long History, Exciting Future
"BrandGames is a New York-based marketing company that pioneered the use of branded games (now called advergaming) as a media platform in 1995," Wexler explained. "Early on, we developed the idea that custom videogames featuring integrated brand messages do double duty -- as promotional incentives that drive sales and as media that deliver hours of brand-building awareness. The first branded games in the pre-web era were issued on floppy disk, for Chef Boyardee, Coca-Cola and Samsung. We created the first-ever advergames for clients including General Mills, Taco Bell, GAP and Reebok."

[ "With advergames, the expectation going in is that exposure to branded content subsidizes the gaming experience. As long as the game delivers a fun pay off, young consumers enjoy it," Jim Wexler, Executive VP, Marketing, BrandGames ]

This history has given BrandGames a unique outlook on the future of the advergame business. A simple look at gaming statistics shows that future growth in the space is essentially inevitable.

"[We all] know that games continue to grow as a core entertainment platform. 92% of children between the ages of 2 and 17 play video or computer games," Wexler said. "35% of Americans rate video and computer games as 'the most fun entertainment activity.' (TV came in a weak second with just 18% of votes, followed by the Internet, books, and movies). A generation has been raised on videogames and for them it is a natural part of the media mix."

Wexler also noted that the continued success (indeed, the flourishing) of advergames proves that the savvy younger generations recognize value. Being a marketing tool doesn't inherently discourage them from enjoying an experience.

"There's a huge appetite for causal game experiences where topical content, humor, edgy graphics, and twitch deliver a worthwhile fun experience. For them it's a relevant and valid cultural experience. With advergames, the expectation going in is that exposure to branded content subsidizes the gaming experience. As long as the game delivers a fun pay off, young consumers enjoy it," he explained.

Boosting Brand Awareness
The website BrandGames created for Dunkin' Donuts,, reinforces the baked goods chain's TV campaign created to promote the coffee drink. The spot features a classic race between tortoise and hare, with the tortoise emerging victorious thanks to some help from (you guessed it) the Turbo-Ice drink. The site features an animated hare, along with a Gen-Y'er in half a tortoise costume, lounging on a couch. The scene serves as portal to the web game, original animated shorts, and more information about the Turbo-Ice drink.

"We wanted to generate awareness and reinforce Turbo Ice's relevance among 16-34 year olds through an alternate form of popular media," said John Gilbert, Vice President of Marketing at Dunkin' Donuts, "Young adults seem to be watching less television and are spending more time online. The Turbo Ice game proved to be a successful way to speak to their lifestyle."

Although the site remains live, the campaign has run its course, culminating with a giveaway of multiple pieces of extreme sports gear on December 31st. The site (which launched over the summer) generated over 100,000 unique views, with an impressive average of 4 minutes each spent browsing.

"[The campaign was] a success," Wexler said. "It spoke to young consumers in their own
language. The traffic to the website confirms consumer interest."


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