Back in the old days, television ads were simple. Three women in 1950s dresses singing the virtues of Colgate toothpaste alongside the happy, white smiles of dad and the kids, all with perfect teeth. They seem quaint and simple in the face of modern graphics blasting out the latest computer games system from Sega or Nintendo. But soon even this form of advertising could look old fashioned as the combination of multimedia and advertising begins to attract interest from advertisers – and British companies are among the pace-setters. Microtime Media Ltd, London, is a specialist agency for the production of interactive advertising. It was set up in 1991 by Daniel Bobroff, who wondered why leisure software, a well-liked and widely-used medium, did not contain advertising. The company’s first success was James Pond II – a computer game based around the McVitie’s Penguin Biscuit character.
This was followed by Fun School, an educational title teaching four- to nine-year-olds how to spell, count and paint. Subsidies from advertisements meant that players could pay less for the games and the company has since been commissioned to work on more than 100 campaigns for major brands including Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Adidas and Midland Bank. The company focusses on various media, including entertainment software, touch-screen and point-of-sale displays, educational software, the World Wide Web and other on-line services. However, it is most active in the entertainment sector because companies tend to align advertisements with what people see as fun, Bobroff said. US marketing and technology consultant Aimee Rosewall agreed. Advertising through the vein of entertainment makes sense. If it’s a fun experience, the introduction of advertising makes sense because people gravitate towards fun. The latest adventure is a game based around the character in the Peperami television advertising campaign from Unilever’s Van den Burgh Foods. The new title will be a comic, interactive adventure built around the world inhabited by Peperami in his commercials. A new engine technology, which the company won’t talk about, will enable the character to move in a 360 degree environment rather than in the standard four directions – up, down, left and right. It will be a role-playing adventure in which the player is Peperami. Microtime believes the game will attract its audience through a strong plot and storyline. It is due to be released early in 1996 on Windows personal computer, CD-ROM and other major formats.
By Abigail Waraker
The game has been well over a year in development, with considerable investment. Following research results, we know the infamous Peperami character has the potential to launch a chart-topping game. This will ensure we reach our target audience in an exciting and involving way, said Helen Duce, brand manager for Peperami. Interactive media are an exciting new departure for advertising, said Bobroff. Leisure software offers advertisers the audiences that they want. He predicts a big shake-up in the traditions of advertising. His argument is that certain audiences are becoming cynical about traditional forms of linear advertising – making them less effective. So advertisers are looking to new channels to promote their products. Multinational companies are aware that their ability to communicate is one of their most important assets. Reaching an audience is not enough to make an impression. Advertisers are very interested in new media as a form of promoting their brands in an advertising environment that is fragmenting by the day, Bobroff said. Interactive advertising in games may mean a shift by advertisers towards talking directly to customers without the need for a middleman, such as the broadcaster or publisher. The player interacts actively with the Peperami character and is not the passive viewer he is in the television medium. This concept is intriguing to advertisers, he said. Microtime has a specific role in this new market because advertisers don’t have the years of expertise in interactive advertising that they have already gained in linear advertising, in which the audience is a passive viewer of a short clip of product information. Microtime’s function is to show advertisers how new media can be used from an entertainment perspective to promote their brand. There is a different skill set for advertising via interactive media, Bobroff said. Creativity is crucial. It is inappropriate to rely on the traditional set of creative skills. The beginning, middle and end dynamic doesn’t work in the interactive environment.
No-one will be exposed
The game player is not passive as he is in linear advertising, so the environment has to be interesting enough for the participant to carry on playing the game and not wander off to make a cup of tea as they might in a television commercial break. The target audience needs to be empowered. Linked to this is conquest, another important element in interactive advertising. Not only do users want to participate, but they want to win, to control the brand being promoted. This will help maintain their interest but relinquishing control over a product is a new concept for the advertiser. Control can be seen in the case of the FIFA soccer game promoting the Adidas Predator football boot. Players equip their teams with Predator boots if they wish. This gives them 20% more swerve and accuracy in their shots, making them more likely to score a goal, but more likely to concede one as well. But players don’t have to use the boots if they don’t want to. Users are more powerful than ever before. In the interactive environment you have to satisfy the 15-second challenge. That’s how long it takes people to make their mind up, Bobroff said. Microtime believes that it understands this. Our job is about creating hits. Our goal is to create a ‘hit’ for our advertisers. If the game isn’t successful, then no-one will be exposed to the branded product.