In-Game Advertising

Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos celebrates a touchdown on the sidelines against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.
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GameCore is a column by's William Vitka that focuses on gamers and gaming.

The biggest dogs don't always bark the loudest.

If you thought IGN and Massive Inc. were the biggest in the pack, you would be wrong. Another company might be the champ. IGA Worldgroup is the planet's biggest name in in-game advertising.

As Darren Herman, chief commercial officer for IGA Partners North America, told me, he was sitting at his college graduation with a laptop waiting for his name to be called when he pressed the button that launched their first campaign in Counter-Strike.

"I was sitting there in my gown...and then I put Spike TV live."

That was in May of 2004, yet IGA is a name that isn't immediately recognizable to many gamers.

"We like flying under the radar," Mr. Herman said. "We never want to bark," added IGA CEO Andrew Sispoidis.

That method of thinking seems to be working out well for IGA. They are in a position where advertisers come to them. Probably because, according to Darren and Andrew, they've figured out a way to keep marketers, developers, publishers and gamers happy.

IGA works with developers as the video games are being made. Instead of tacking ads on after the fact, the ads become a part of the game. That minor difference in the creative process shows in the product.

The advertisements are not limited to billboards or posters. Instead, they can be integrated into the game as objects themselves. That was the case with Hive Partners' work on getting Red Bull into Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death and Worms 3D. Red Bull was a counter-culture sign and power-up respectively. Hive, as it happens, was recently acquired by IGA. The key point of this approach is that the advertisement gets anchored within the gameplay.

But, as Andrew said, "truth is, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

In-game advertising is still, after all, a very new field for all participants. No one has mastered it yet, though most companies seem to be thinking along the lines of digital Conquistadors. IGA, however, was quick to distance itself from Massive and IGN.

They do things differently, they told me. IGA tries to fit into the industry while Massive and IGN try to define it.

But they're certainly not trying to draw their rivals' ire. "We are all going to end up on top of the mountain," Darren said, "there are just 50 million different ways to do it."

And just how are these companies doing it?

IGN, whose system is non-operational at the moment, is pushing their ability to deliver dynamic content and ads.

Massive Inc. has campaigns running in Anarchy Online and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. The publishers of both games tell me, on the record, though I've heard otherwise off the record, that they're very happy with what Massive has done with static ad placement. Gamers themselves have said that the ads do not detract from the experience.

IGA has been doing those things for some time. They've run static ad campaigns, real-time advertising and dynamic in-game advertisements. They're proud of it.