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‘Games offer marketers more than TV’

The most popular video games now outsell films and DVDs. The game Grand Theft Auto IV alone sold around six million copies in its first week on worldwide release, grossing more than $500m. Game sales are predicted to rise 12% this year to create a market worth $36bn, compared to a predicted decline of 4% to $27bn for DVD/Blu-Ray entertainment, according to GfK.

So it’s no surprise that furniture brand Harvey’s is hoping to capitalise on the popularity of video games by featuring a family playing with Nintendo’s popular handheld DS console in its ads.

The more interesting element is the console it has chosen to feature. The Nintendo DS and its sister product Wii are very much family-focused consoles. In some ways, the Wii, which comes with games promoting active play, fitness and sports, has helped rehabilitate the reputation of computer games for anxious mums and dads. It has made gaming something for the whole family to do together rather than being the domain of boys in their bedrooms.

By showing Nintendo products in ads, Harvey’s is trying to promote the idea that it is the right place to come for furniture which fits with the way that modern families live their lives. Harvey’s is also benefiting from the halo effect generated by how Nintendo markets the DS in its own ads, building on this concept of its products being family fun without ever needing to say it explicitly.

In terms of what other products or companies could benefit by associating themselves with video games or consoles, it depends very much on who they are trying to reach and why.

For example, the Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld created a music playlist for the radios inside cars in the game Grand Theft Auto. At first, that might seem like a strange move but it really just helped give the long-established designer fashion house more of an youthful spin at a time when other more edgy clothing brands might have gained popularity.

If marketers choose correctly, the right computer game can give a brand more exposure than films or TV ads. Games are also interactive, which means that you can even get people to play with or ‘buy’ your brand in the course of a game.

These days, dynamic ads in video games can be updated via the console’s internet connection; it would be possible to have a character in an existing game drinking your newly launched drink a week after it hits shelves or walking past an in-game billboard showing off the new beverage.

The most important thing, however, in terms of choosing to associate your brand with a computer game or console is to go for the right one. It is quite a different message if you are linking your brand with casual online gaming websites rather than a Microsoft Xbox 360. If you are aiming for young men, you might choose to be involved with the Xbox, while women tend to be very interested in the casual online gaming world.

The most important thing for companies is that they should have a really strong idea of their own target audiences and brands before they seek out associations with any other company or product; that way they can create a partnership that makes sense for everyone involved.

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