Marketing matters (Part Two)

In the second part of our roundtable with the UK video game industry’s leading marketers, we discuss falling print readership, the increase in cinema-goers, social networks and if marketing has a bigger impact on sales than review scores…

How has the decline in print media affected your advertising decisions?

Alex Bertie, VP of Marketing, Codemasters:
Print still plays an important role. Gamers that read specialist pubs can be great market mavens, and a healthy specialist print and online mix is still one of the best ways of reaching core gamers in the UK.

Paul Nicholls, Sales and Marketing Director, Koch Media:
Koch Media recognises that although the circulation of print publications is declining, the hard-core gamers are still reading these publications, so they still form an integral part of any campaign. Our campaigns are never based solely around one media; we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to reach our consumers.

Murray Pannell, UK Marketing Director, Ubisoft:
This is an interesting question and depends very much on the target audience. The women’s press, for example, has suffered nothing like the declines of some specialist and men’s lifestyle magazines. And there are some publications that are seeing great growth across the category.

Equally, print is still strong for reaching a casual audience and offers decent sales promotional activity in national newspapers. 
But in general, I’d agree and say that standard single page print advertising is no longer a default element of our media plans. That said the role of PR, promotions and high production level ‘specials’ can really create cut-through and standout in print, so in that sense we are behaving in a much more considered way when we decide to run print advertising.

Rob Lowe, Product Manager for Wii, Nintendo:
It depends on the title being promoted. We use print media when it’s appropriate – and in fact print advertorials have been a key way for us to communicate the benefits and features of some titles in a tone and lexicon that non-gamers might be able to understand in a clearer way. We use print advertising when it’s right for our campaigns – and try not to be affected by whether a particular media industry is in decline or in growth.

Laura Pritchard, Games Marketing Manager, Asda: Contrary to category trends where TV dominates marketing, within our competitor set national press accrues the highest investment. So although it is not always the cheapest form of marketing, the short lead-time nature of press enables us to utilise its flexibility to promote our great deals.

Have you taken to advertising in cinemas this year? If so, why?

Alex Bertie: We ran Operation Flashpoint advertising in cinema for 2 months. Crucially the ad creative was built with cinema in mind and used fantastic 5.1 surround sound design that placed the viewer right in the boots of a combat soldier to create a really immersive and atmospheric piece of creative that showed off the game beautifully

Murray Pannell:
I believe in cinema, but only when it is done properly. By this I mean simply dropping the occasional 30” spot mid-reel doesn’t maximise the potential of cinema in my mind. Where cinema really comes into its own is where you take a long-term approach to brand-building with an integrated plan hitting all possible elements of cinema advertising (not just in-reel, but also in-foyer, online and promotional partnerships). For example, ORANGE has done it well over a number of years. But the short-term sales spikes of all but the biggest AAA blockbuster franchises often means that cinema is an unaffordable luxury for most games launches.

David Tyler, UK Marketing Director, Activision Blizzard:

Obviously using cinema to promote film based tie-ins such as Wolverine is a logical choice, and we did this back in May. We also like to take advantage of using cinema on other titles where visually the game-play looks particularly impressive or dramatic. Cinema is a very expensive medium to use, but you have a captive audience and amazing audio and visual technology through which to deliver a message.

Amanda Farr, UK Marketing Director, Sega:
Research that has just been released by TGI shows that cinema admissions are up by more than five per cent this year. Our Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games cinema advert is the longest running cinema campaign within the games market this year. We have been advertising in cinemas since July, will be continuing until Christmas and it will have been seen by 12 million people by the end of the year.

Going to the cinema is an event, for a product like Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, the whole family is likely to be viewing together and research shows that recall of cinema advertising is more than double that of TV due to the environment that it is being viewed in.

Marketing withing social spaces, has really taken off this year. Have you been taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so forth? And if so, why?

David Miller, UK Marketing Director, Namco Bandai Partners:
Social media will be one of the key step-changes in games marketing next year and beyond. The reputation economy is here, with bloggers posting daily and consumers trusting peer recommendations more than ads. As marketers we have to try to engage in conversation with our customers and positively influence the word of mouth for our products and brands.

Will Curley, VP of Sales and Marketing, Tecmo Koei Europe:
Our community director Chin Soon Sun won a place in your 30 Under 30 for his efforts. Social media is vital for us. Many of our fans are very active in blogging, twittering and facebooking so we are constantly creating new ways to engage with them. The benefits of this range from exceptionally strong fan bases for ours games, through to birthday cookies sent in by them. We can’t thank them enough.

Stuart Turner, Head of UK Marketing, Capcom:
Social media is perhaps an area we as an industry have been involved in for years but perhaps not fully embraced until more recently. 10 years ago we all had forums but they were just there, the people existed but we never really utilised what we had. We now have in house community specialists at Capcom and it’s very much a two way dialogue with our community.
By simply having a communication channel open you can see the reaction almost immediately to new information released. We know that these people are our evangelists who’ll recommend our games to others so having them involved in feedback on products, advertising, packaging and the development process is extremely important.

Jonathan Hales, Managing Director, South Peak:
Absolutely, YouTube and Google’s Video Ad Network have become a large part of our media buys this year and we’ve seen some incredible results from both. The level of targeting available and the hunger for different types of content from their readership is fantastic and has provided us with some of the best advertising results we’ve seen.

A recent survey determined that marketing has a bigger impact on consumer spending than video game review scores. What’s your opinion on this?

David Tyler, UK Marketing Director, Activision Blizzard:
As a marketeer, I should be quick to agree. However, broad statements like these tend to be too generic to be meaningful.

Video game launches have a notoriously complex range of factors that all work together to determine the final level of sales and commercial success. These range from the obvious Metacritic and marketing support, through to originality of gameplay, competitor launches and pricing, natural brand awareness, box office performance on movie tie-ins, the underlying market dynamics at time of launch, the strength of the advertising creative and so on.

Rob Lowe, Product Manager for Wii, Nintendo:

Both must work together to build buzz and desire for a game. As in films, TV or books – people will always read reviews or seek out other people’s opinions before parting with their money – and games is no different.

Alan Duncan, Marketing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment UK:
This is a massive simplification and not particularly useful. To create a major blockbuster you need to have everything aligned.

Murray Pannell:
Any product in any category in any industry needs quality at its core. Just spending a lot of money might convince people to buy something once, but rarely twice. In an industry that relies on building brand and franchise development, I would always rather start with a good game.

Stuart Turner, Head of UK Marketing, Capcom:
I don’t see how they can be separated; the review scores are integrated within the overall marketing activity. 
There are plenty of games that review well and don’t sell partly due to a lack of marketing funds and possibly because they are a difficult concept to sell, there are even more that review well are marketing well and sell well.

However, I can’t thing of many games that have reviewed really badly but gone onto perform well at retail thanks to a hefty marketing campaign. While marketing might have a direct impact on consumer spending, the question would be how much of an indirect impact do reviews have on consumer spending?
Influence of friends often comes up highly in research as a reason to purchase; whether that be an opinion of a friend in the know, a forum member, or customer reviews. It’s these consumers, the influencers, that would likely have read games reviews.

It’s highly likely that at some point even a consumer heavily influenced by marketing will be directly or indirectly influenced by review scores.

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