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How can Coca-Cola Advertise in World of Warcraft? An Exploratory Examination of Gamers Attitudes Towards Around-Game Advertising

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Abstract and Figures

Marketing messages are everywhere, even in the digital world of gaming, advertising and product placements make regular appearances. However, not every game is suited to In-Game Advertising and as such companies have had to look at alternative ways of associating their brands with games. The purpose of our study was to examine the attitudes of gamers towards the concept of Around-Game Advertising, which we define as ‘Advertising and promotion linked to video and computer games through non-intrusive around game displays or licensing of game branding with associated third-party products’ (Smith et al., 2014). Participants (N=32) considered to be expert gamers, were exposed to four different brands of carbonated soft drinks or energy drinks as well as viewing eleven associated advertisements which had associations with sixteen different games deemed unsuitable for In-Game Advertising. Data was collected through questionnaires completed before and after participating in a focus group. Results showed that that this form of advertising, gamer attitudes and buying behaviour can be positively influenced through exposure. In addition, a comparison of the ordinal regression models, showed that their influence factors for buying decisions were also influenced.
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LCBR European Marketing Conference 2014 1
How can Coca-Cola Advertise in World of Warcraft? An Exploratory
Examination of Gamers Attitudes Towards Around-Game Advertising
Martin W Smith1, Bobby Mackie1, Wei Sun1, John Sutherland2
1 Business School, University of the West of Scotland, Scotland
2 School of Engineering and Computing, University of the West of Scotland, Scotland
ABSTRACT
Marketing messages are everywhere, even in the digital world of gaming, advertising and
product placements make regular appearances. However, not every game is suited to In-
Game Advertising and as such companies have had to look at alternative ways of
associating their brands with games. The purpose of our study was to examine the
attitudes of gamers towards the concept of Around-Game Advertising, which we define as
‘Advertising and promotion linked to video and computer games through non-intrusive
around game displays or licensing of game branding with associated third-party products’
(Smith et al., 2014). Participants (N=32) considered to be expert gamers, were exposed to
four different brands of carbonated soft drinks or energy drinks as well as viewing eleven
associated advertisements which had associations with sixteen different games deemed
unsuitable for In-Game Advertising. Data was collected through questionnaires completed
before and after participating in a focus group. Results showed that that this form of
advertising, gamer attitudes and buying behaviour can be positively influenced through
exposure. In addition, a comparison of the ordinal regression models, showed that their
influence factors for buying decisions were also influenced.
Keywords: Game Advertising, Video Games, Computer Games, Promotional
Merchandising, Consumer Attitudes, Consumer Buying Behaviour
Introduction
Historically, those who play video and computer games (games) have been stereotypically
viewed as being teenage boys playing in their bedroom (Tucker, 2011). However, nothing
could be further from the truth as although these types of gamers exist, in 2013 it was
found that within the US, 39% of gamers were actually aged 36 and over, the average age
of those playing games was 31 and 48% were female (ESA 2014). These figures build
upon similar previous findings in 2012 (ESA, 2013), 2011 (ESA, 2012) as well as 2010
(ESA, 2011). Even as far back as 2003, the average age of a gamer was found to be 29,
17% of gamers were over 50 and 39% were female (ESA, 2004). Therefore, it is not that
surprising that gaming has transformed itself into a multi-billion dollar business, with some
even suggesting that it is now the largest global entertainment industry (Barker, 2013;
Davidson, 2011). In 2013, it was estimated that there were over 1.1 billion people who
played games on a regular basis, with these gamers generating over $US 70 billion in
revenue for the global games industry. Table 1 outlines these figures in more detail, where
it can be seen that although the Asia-Pacific region has the highest number of players (477
million) as well as the highest revenue figure ($US 25.1 billion), North America appears to
generate the most revenue per player ($US 118.75).
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Table 1. Global Games Industry Overview 2013
(Adapted from Ligman, 2013, non-paginated)
What is Game Advertising?
Part of the revenue generated within the games industry comes from advertising
associations with games and according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, this can be
referred to as ‘Game Advertising’ (Madden 2007; Madden and Richards 2010). Where
they failed to present any clear definition of this concept, we have defined this previously
as “The association of marketing communications messages with video & computer
games to target consumers through Advergames, Around-Game Advertising or In-Game
Advertising activities”, (Smith et al., 2014, p. 97). Figure 1 outlines a framework we
developed, which provides a clear overview of this concept, highlighting that although the
three facets of Advergames, Around-Game Advertising and In-Game Advertising are
distinct in nature, linkages can be found between them. Each of these facets will be
outlined in more detail over the following few sections. It is worth noting that some authors
who have examined the area previously, consider the use of fake brands to be a form of
Game Advertising (Nieborg, 2007; Chaney, Lin and Chaney, 2004; Nelson, Keum and
Yaros, 2004). However, we believe this to be an incorrect interpretation of the concept as
by its very nature advertising is “Any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion
of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor” (Kotler et al. 2009, p. 861).
Figure 1. Game Advertising Framework
(Adapted from Smith et al., 2014, p. 97)
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In 2013, it has been estimated that Game Advertising was worth in the region of $US 2.7
billion to the industry. This is expected to rise for the foreseeable future, with the indication
being that it may reach the $US 4 billion mark by 2017 (Murdoch, 2014). Table 2 highlights
that although video game advertising lies at the bottom in terms of actual revenue, it has
witnessed the second highest growth percentage rate, only being outperformed by digital
advertising. In addition, it is also indicated that advertising revenue from games has
outperformed cinema based advertising since 2011, which is no mean feat considering
that companies have only been taking the concept seriously in the last 10 years or so.
Table 2. Global Advertising Revenue and Revenue Growth 2008-2017
(Adapted from Murdoch, 2014, p. 8)
Advergames
The term ‘Advergame’ originated in January 2000 when Anthony Giallourakis purchased
the domain name advergames.com and is simply a hybrid of the words ‘advertising’ and
‘game’. It subsequently appeared in the October 2001 edition of Wired Magazine with the
definition “Advergame: A downloadable or Web-based game created solely to enable
product placements”, (Branwyn, 2001, non-paginated), and was quickly adopted by the
industry. However, this early definition no longer reflects the true nature of Advergames as
they have evolved beyond being simple online or downloadable games to include those
which can be played via a games disk on both computer and video console. As such, a
more accurate definition can be indicated as being “A digital game specifically designed for
the primary purpose of advertising and promotion of an organisations product, service or
brand played via the Internet or on a compatible medium via a games disc or digital
download”, (Smith et al., 2014, p. 101). Figure 1 outlines that this type of advertising
association can be considered to be either (1) Direct Response, where the game has been
designed to generate either leads for the brand being promoted and may involve gamer
details being passed to organisations or (2) Experiential, where the game is developed to
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sustain positive consumer attitudes through associations with particular lifestyle or social
choices (Abbot, 2008). No matter the intention of why these games have been designed,
they are usually considered to be more casual in nature, allowing products and brands to
be promoted in a more engaging and fun way to new and existing customers of all ages.
In-Game Advertising
An alternative form which maybe better suited to mainstream games is that of In-Game
Advertising. We define this as “The integration of non-fictional products and brands within
the playing environment of video & computer games through simulated real life marketing
communications mechanisms” (Smith et al. 2014 p. 101). This facet of game Advertising is
achieved through placing products directly into the games via Product Placement or
communicating with gamers through Marketing Displays. Product Placement is defined
here as being “…the integration of branded non-fictional products embedded within the
gaming environment as either a passive implicit background element or as a contextually
active, explicit and interactive element which can be static or dynamic in nature” (Smith, et
al., 2014, p. 9). Moreover, Marketing Displays are defined as “…static or dynamic displays
which can be either associative or interactive simulations of real world mediums such as
advertising hoardings, posters, store signage, sports apparel sponsors, etc but not the
actual products themselves” (adapted from Smith et al., 2014, p. 99).
Figure 1 highlights that In-Game Advertising can be placed within a game as either (1) a
Static placement, where advertising elements are coded directly into the game during its
development and cannot be altered or removed without a new version of the game being
released (IAB, 2009; Bardzell, Bardzell and Pace 2008) or (2) a Dynamic placement,
where advertising elements can be changed or additional branded items added through
downloads, via disks or more conveniently, via an internet connection which adjusts pre-
existing areas within the game in real-time as it is being played. This allows for consumer
targeting with alternative messages being displayed at different times and for time limited
campaigns similar to television advertising. In addition, advertisers are able to react to
changing trends as well as promoting new products such as the release of a new film or
television programme within pre-existing games which have built up an online following
(Wallington, 2010; Krihak, 2008; Steiner, 2008).
Unlike Advergames, games which usually incorporate In-Game Advertising are not
specifically designed to promote a product, brand or service. Rather the use of this form of
Game Advertising is more concerned with enhancing the playing environment by creating
a more accurate reflection of the real world advertising and promotion mediums.
Around-Game Advertising
However, not all games are suited to take advantage of the potential revenue from either
being designed as an Advergame or for the inclusion of In-Game Advertising. In terms of
In-Game Advertising, the gaming environment or setting may not be conducive to the
inclusion of advertising. For example, would it really be acceptable to see Coca Cola being
promoted in fantasy games such as the Final Fantasy through purchasing cans from their
item shops or having billboards placed in World of Warcraft? Would sci-fi games set in a
distant future be deemed suitable for the inclusion of Mountain Dew? We think not. As
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such, a third facet of Game Advertising exists which attempts to eliminate the intrusive
nature of incorporating such advertising associations. This is termed as Around-Game
Advertising which we define as “Advertising and promotion linked to video and computer
games through non-intrusive around game displays or licensing of game branding with
associated third-party products” (Smith et al., 2014, p. 101).
Figure 1 shows that Around-Game Associations can be either in the form of (1) Banners,
which are usually placed around the gaming environment and hyperlinked to product
websites (Wang, Shih and Peracchio, 2013) and according to Acer (2007) they have
proven to be so popular that it would be extremely rare to play Advergames online without
being exposed to banners; (2) Interstitials, which usually take the form of videos played
pre and post-game as well as during load screens (Verna, 2012; IAB, 2010; Panda, 2008);
(3) Sponsorship, where an advertiser has sponsored part of the game environment such
as allowing free game access; sponsoring a game level or through ‘Game Skinning’ where
the advertiser sponsors the game environment within which the game is placed or has
been given a sponsored area within the game portal (Charlesworth 2009; Nichols, 2008) or
finally (4) Promotion, where licensing agreements are set up to allow for advertising
associations with the game away from the playing environment such as (a) Cross
Promotion, defined by Chalmers et al. (2013, p. 4) as ‘…a form of marketing promotion
whereby customers of one product or service are targeted with the promotion of a related
product [or service]. This includes the area of Cross Media Promotion, which is defined by
Hardy, (2010 p. xv) as “…the promotion of one media service or product through another”.
within games this includes games which have been turned into movies or television
programmes and vice versa; or (b) Promotional Merchandise, which involves “…employing
promotional products to help companies and other organizations advertise their products
and services” (Long 2014 non-paginated) and in some cases are viewed as being
Collectables. Within games, this form of advertising has proved to be quite popular over
recent years with highly successful campaigns being cared out with ‘World of Warcraft’
and Coca Cola; ‘Halo 2’ and ‘Halo 3’ with PepsiCo's Mountain Dew brand and various
promotions linking Final Fantasy games with the Japanese drinks manufacturer Suntory
(Beavis, 2007; Hampp, 2008 & Muzellec et al., 2012).
Methodology & Research Design
The study outlined here was part of wider research which examined ‘Product Associations
with Incongruent Games: An Exploratory Study of Game Advertising’. This consisted of
three main phases of (1) conducting a Systematic Literature Review, which examined
published material between 2001 and 2013 in the area of Game Advertising; (2) a Content
Analysis of Game Advertising within the top 200 selling games in 2005 through 2009 and
finally, (3) Focus Groups examining Game Advertising attitudes. It is within this final phase
of the research where this paper is based, linking to the research question ‘What are the
thoughts and attitudes of gamers to the use of Around-Game Advertising through
Promotional Merchandising to target them as consumers’. Overall this aspect of the
research was mixed methods in nature. From a quantitative perspective, a pre and post
focus group questionnaire was used to gauge attitudes. The majority of the questions
utilised a 5-point Likert-type ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Other
questions asked participants to rank five items in order of influence ranging from 1 (least
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influential) to 5 (most influential), with others being open questions asking for textual
comments. Qualitatively, the groups were digital recorded to ascertain more in-depth
insights into gamers attitudes.
A total of four focus groups were held on the same day lasting on average 90 minutes,
with eight participants in each group who were selected through a non-probability,
purposive homogeneous sampling strategy of students undertaking games based degrees
within a university based in Scotland. Upon arrival, each participant was asked to complete
the first three sections of the focus group booklet which included (1) the participant
consent form; (2) a demographic questionnaire and (3) the first focus group questionnaire
which included questions on their general advertising attitudes, their interaction with
carbonated soft drinks and their thoughts on advertising and games in general. Thereafter,
each group was briefed on how the session would work, with the indication being that this
would be broken down into two main areas. The initial discussion would be aimed at
examining participants knowledge, attitudes and opinions on various facets and issues
associated with Game Advertising. This would then be followed by a more focused
discussion on elements associated with Around-Game Advertising where participants
would get the opportunity to discuss and comment on four different brands of carbonated
soft drinks or energy drinks (Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Suntory and Boston America
Corp.) which had ties to sixteen different games (Aion, Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy VII,
Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy
Dissidia, Gears of War, Halo Reach, Halo 3, Pac-Man, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Super
Mario Brothers, and World of Warcraft) through exposure to fourteen products and eleven
associated advertisements. Finally, each group was informed that the sessions would be
audio recorded with two digital voice recorders openly placed on the table and that all
responses would be anonymised. Two moderators, including the researcher, were
present in the room at all times allowing for amply opportunities for questions to be asked
throughout the session. Upon completion, participants were reminded about confidentiality
and not to discuss their participation with any of the subsequent groups. Moreover, they
were reminded that they would be approached the following week to complete the last
section of the booklet. Consequently, each participant was approached within a computer
lab one week after the focus group and were asked to complete the final section of the
focus group booklet. All participants completed the questionnaire in full.
As this research was looking to ascertain meanings and perceptions rather than absolute
truths, Thematic Analysis was deemed to be most the appropriate qualitative analysis
technique. Braun and Clarke, (2006, p. 79) define this as “…a method for identifying,
analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data. It minimally organizes and
describes your data set in (rich) detail”. Due to the exploratory nature of the research,
using this process allows for themes to naturally emerge from the data as it is not
embedded within any pre-existing theoretical framework. Other techniques were
considered such as Grounded Theory and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA),
however these were ultimately discarded. Although IPA relies on a purposive
homogeneous sampling strategy, it is too heavily reliant on participant shared experiences
(Seamark et al., 2004), which was not the focus of this research. In addition, grounded
theory was discarded as it relies on a comprehensive data collection process which is
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continuous until a saturation point is reached where no new insights are discovered as well
as looking to develop theory, (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2011), which again was not
the focus within this research.
Furthermore, to help alleviate some of the concerns which can been associated with
qualitative research related to issues such as objectivity, rigour, trustworthiness and
transparency, (May, 1996; Clarke, 2002 and Oliveira & Ferreira, 2011), elements of
Thematic Network were utilised. According to Attride-Stirling, (2001, p. 185), this is “…a
robust and highly sensitive tool for the systematization and presentation of qualitative
analyses”. In essence, this framework provides a conceptualisation of the qualitative
analysis undertaken within three hierarchical thematic layers. These have been interpreted
within this research as being: (a) the Global Theme: which provides the holistic contextual
point of reference for the analysis; (b) the Organising Themes: which provide the collective
grouping of similar positions or assertions and (c) the Basic Themes: which provide
derived foundation principles appearing within the textual data. Moreover, this framework
is developed from a six step process of (1) Code Material; (2) Identify Themes; (3)
Construct Thematic Networks; (4) Describe and Explore Thematic Networks; (5)
Summarize Thematic Networks and (6) Interpret Patterns (Attride-Stirling, 2001, p. 391).
Findings
This section outlines some of the main quantitative and qualitative results obtained from
the third and final phase of the research investigation which looked at Around-Game
Advertising as an alternative to In-Game Advertising:
Quantitative
Although the focus groups were predominately used for collecting qualitative insights,
some basic quantitative data was also collected, This was analysed from both a
descriptive and inferential perspective through the use of ‘IBM SPSS Statistics 20’
software examining the areas of participants: (a) demographics and gaming experience;
(b) attitudes towards advertising and advertising of soft drinks and energy drinks; and (c)
attitudes towards Game Advertising.
Participant demographics and gaming experience
The demographic outline of the groups is presented in Table 3, which highlights that the
majority of participants were male (90.6%) and aged between 18 and 25 (93.8%). This
reflected the make-up of the undergraduate degree courses from which these participants
were chosen, with the majority studying Computer Games Development (59.4%) rather
than Computer Games Technology (40.6%). We were interested in the thoughts of gamers
who could be considered to be experts in terms of their knowledge and experience of
playing games. Expert gamers can be defined in various ways with Gangadharbatla,
Bradley and Wise (2013) indicating that this can range from the number of hours played
per week to their knowledge or familiarity with games and gaming consoles. As such, we
adopted two characteristics for our participants to be considered experts, namely if they
played regularly for more than five hours per week (Schneider & Cornwell, 2005) and had
more than two years’ gaming experience (Boot et al., 2008). It can be seen from Table 3
that all our participants indicated that the played games on average for six hours or more
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and all had been playing games for eight or more years. In light of these results and the
fact that all participants were studying for a games related degree, we consider them to be
experts as they exceed the minimum criteria.
Table 3. Focus Group Demographic Characteristics
Participant attitudes towards advertising and advertising of soft drinks and energy drinks
Using a 5-point likert scale (from 1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree) participant
attitudes towards whether they viewed advertising as being annoying/intrusive was gauged
through their responses to various statements as outlined in Table 4. Using both
descriptive statistical analysis through a series of Mean (M) and Standard Deviations (SD)
tests as well basic inferential analysis with a series of Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests
(Wilcoxon Test), we found that overall participants attitudes became more positive towards
advertising after participating in the focus group, although the only significant change was
found to be in regards to their general attitude rather than concerning some of the more
specific issues related to advertising format.
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Table 4. General Advertising Attitude
In addition, we also examined participants attitudes concerning different advertising
mediums by asking them to rank their top three influences from Cinema, Games, Mobile,
Online, Outdoor, Print Media, Radio, and Television advertising. Through a Friedman test,
we that found clear preferences existed (x2 = 86.652; ρ < 0.05) with Weighted Mean
analysis (WM) showing that participants were more influenced by the mediums of Online
(WM=2.21, SD=0.73), closely followed by Television (WM=2.20, SD=0.91) and then
Games (WM=2.10, SD=0.74) rather than Cinema (WM=1.91, SD=0.83), Mobile
(WM=1.67, SD=1.15), Outdoor (WM=1.50, SD=0.58), Radio (WM=1.50, SD=0.58) and
finally Print Media (WM=1.40, SD=0.70).
Examining more closely purchase influences for carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks,
participants were asked to rank the five factors of Advertising, Brand Name, Packaging,
Price, and Recommendation. In terms of soft drinks, it was found that the 29 participants
who indicated that the consumed these appeared to have a clear preference (Friedman: x2
= 10.428; ρ = 0.034). Conversely, no clear preference was found from the 23 participants
who consumed energy drinks (Friedman: x2 = 3.861; ρ = 0.425). Interestingly, Table 5
highlights that our participants actually indicated Advertising as being the least influential
for both (Carbonated Soft Drinks: WM=2.34, SD=1.26; Energy Drinks: WM=2.48,
SD=1.27), with Recommendation being the most influential for carbonated soft drinks
(WM=3.52, SD=1.40) and Brand Name being considered the most important for those
buying energy drinks (WM=3.30, SD=1.52).
Table 5. Purchase Influences
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Participant attitudes towards Game Advertising
Again using a 5-point likert scale (from 1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree), we
gauged participant responses to whether they disagreed or agreed with various
statements concerning Game Advertising as outlined in Table 6. Using both descriptive
statistical analysis through a series of Mean (M) and Standard Deviations (SD) tests as
well basic inferential analysis with a series of Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests (Wilcoxon Test),
we found that participants attitudes towards Game Advertising positively changed after
exposure to Around-Game Advertising facets, with the changes for each statement found
to be significant.
Table 6. Game Advertising Attitude
Figure 2. New Product Purchase and Brand Change
Participants were also asked to indicate whether they would buy a drink they had never
purchased before as well as whether they would consider changing their regular brand of
drink both based on the drinks association with games. Figure 2 highlights that in both
cases before the focus group there was generally a negative attitude towards this (New
Purchase: M=2.38, SD=0.66; Brand Change: M=2.72, SD=0.52) but after exposure to the
Around-Game Advertising facets this negative attitude change towards being more neutral
and dependent upon the game (New Purchase: M=1.81, SD=0.47; Brand Change:
M=2.22, SD=0.66). Moreover, in both cases this change was indicated as being significant
through a Wilcoxon Test ((New Purchase: Z = -2.840, ρ = 0.005; Brand Change: Z = -
3.771, ρ = 0.000).
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Due to these significant changes in both buying decision and brand changes, it was
decided to examine individual factors to ascertain their influence both before and after
exposure to Around-Game Advertising products and advertisements. As such, the factors
of: (i) gender, (ii) age, (iii) gaming experience, (iv) playing hours per week, (v) video and
computer games as a top three advertising medium influencers and (vi) general
advertising perception were tested. Using a Kruskal-Wallis test where a clear influence
would be if X2 > X2 Critical; α < 0.05, it was found that none of these factors had significant
influence on an individual basis (see Table 7). Consequently, it was decided to use ordinal
regression to explore potential links amongst variables to a dependent variable. Other
tests such as linear regression, ANCOVA or MANCOVA were not selected due to their
strict assumptions about linear relationships or normality distribution (Poole and O’Farrell,
1970; Hoelter, 1983; Keselman, et al., 1998). Within this research, most of variables were
ordinal data which were collected through 3-point or 5-point Likert scales. However, tests
of normality on dependent variables showed that these were not normally distributed. For
example, the normality test on results obtained before focus group participation for
purchase decision making (Kolmogorov-Smirnov: W = 0.461, ρ = 0.000; Shaprio-Wilk: W =
0.549, ρ = 0.000) and attitudes towards advertising and games (Kolmogorov-Smirnov: W =
0.277, ρ = 0.000; Shaprio-Wilk: W = 0.716, ρ = 0.000). Therefore, assumptions associated
with ANCOVA or MANCOVA cannot be achieved. As such, due to the ordinal nature of
dependent variables within this research, ordinal regression was used. Moreover, this
ordinal regression test does not have as many restrictions as the others, except a critical
assumption of parallel lines for all variables, and assumptions about this held (Before: ρ =
0.999 > 0.05; After: ρ = 1.000 > 0.05).
Table 7. Influencing Factors on New Purchase and Brand Choice
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In terms of ordinal regression, SPSS was found to have used the following model:
link(γij)=θj[β1xi1+β2xi2+...+βpxiJ], where link( ) = the link function; ij = the cumulative
probability of the jth category for the ith case; j = the threshold for the jth category; p = the
number of regression coefficients; xi1...xip = the values of the predictors for the ith case and
finally, 1... p = the regression coefficients. As such, β will have a positive influence on the
cumulative probability of participants buying decision where it is negative and a negative
influence where it is positive.
Ordinal regression was used to determine if there was any link between responses
associated with γij (Advertising of products should never be associated with video &
computer games) and the four factors of X1: Video & computer games associated
advertising is acceptable when the products are of interest to me; X2: Video & computer
games associated advertising is acceptable when there is a link between the product and
the game; X3: Video & computer games associated advertising is acceptable when it
provides free downloadable content; and X4: Video & computer games associated
advertising is acceptable when it only utilises game characters to promote products. From
the data gathered from responses before taking part in the focus group, the following
ordinal regression model of cumulative probabilities of participants buying decision for
drinks were estimated through SPSS as outlined below:
link(γ1BE)=-14.061-[(-0.589)*X1BE+(-2.189)*X2BE+(-0.159)*X3BE+(-0.394)*X4BE]
link(γ2BE)=-11.482-[(-0.589)* X1BE+(-2.189)* X2BE+(-0.159)* X3BE+(-0.394)* X4BE]
link(γ3BE)=-10.600-[(-0.589)* X1BE+(-2.189)* X2BE+(-0.159)* X3BE+(-0.394)* X4BE]
link(γ4BE)=-9.994-[(-0.589)* X1BE+(-2.189)* X2BE+(-0.159)* X3BE+(-0.394)* X4BE]
After taking part, the model was presented as outlined below:
li link(γ1AF)=-13.937-[(-1.167)*X1AF+(-0.870)*X2AF+(-0.254)*X3AF+(-0.968)*X4AF]
link(γ2AF)=-11.536-[(-1.1.67)* X1AF+(-0.870)* X2AF+(-0.254)* X3AF+(-0.968)* X4AF]
link(γ3AF)=-8.504-[(-1.167)* X1AF+(-0.870)* X2AF+(-0.254)* X3AF+(-0.968)* X4AF]
link(γ4AF)=-5.819-[(-1.167)* X1AF+(-0.870)* X2AF+(-0.254)* X3AF+(-0.968)* X4AF]
On closer inspection it can be seen from the ‘before focus group’ model that the estimated
β associated with the X2 factor is the strongest compared to the other three. However,
within the ‘after focus group’ model the strongest factor turned out to be X1.
Before exposure negative attitudes appeared to be mostly developed from issues
pertaining to incongruence between product and game (X1BE). However, after exposure
negative attitudes were found to develop in relation to the level of interest in the product
shown by the participants (X2AF).
Qualitative
When it came to examining participants attitudes towards the four elements of Around-
Game Advertising, namely Banners, Interstitials, Sponsorship and Promotion, this was
done through a thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts. Overall, it was found that
participants held negative attitudes towards the majority but not all of these:
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Banners
When it came to the use of banner advertisements it was found that all participants held
strong negative views of their use and although it was indicated that they may be used
online, they were not wanted within ‘mainstream gaming (D75: “Banners don’t work. Their
too distracting when playing games online and the last thing we need is for this to happen
in mainstream gaming as well. Stick to online free games and give the rest of us peace”).
Question marks were also raised over their effectiveness with more than participant
indicate that they had never clicked one (B64: “I don’t think banners are effective. I don’t
think I’ve ever clicked one, other than by accident when trying to get rid of it or when I am
forced to so that I get more lives”).
Interstitials
Similar negative attitudes emerged in relation to the use or even the potential use of
Interstitials with participants holding strong views with the indication being that they were
an ineffective and overly intrusive form of advertising. Comparisons were made to how
these are used within social media sites (A68: “I hate these on YouTube so there is no
way these should ever be associated with games”) or on mobile devices as an example of
why they should never be employed within conventional gaming. This was particularly true
when it was considered that on other mediums these were usually associated with free or
cheap games rather than full priced console games (A64: “I really hate these when they
appear in mobile games but at least the cost of those games are either free or relatively
cheap. If I’m being asked to pay over £40 for a game then the last thing I want to see is a
video clip being played between each level or whilst the game is loading”).
Sponsorship
In terms of Sponsorship, there was near unanimous agreement that this feature of Around-
Game Advertising was not really appropriate for mainstream gaming. The general attitude
appeared to be that the problem with sponsorship of game is the perception that there
would end up with no link being made between the game and product, with the developer
only interested in the money:
D78: “I know money talks but game developers have to draw the line
somewhere and for me, this is the line. Having games sponsored would just
[expletive] off the majority of gamers and I think there would be a major
backlash against the developer and the company doing the sponsoring”
A70: “I’m sorry but no way can you have games being sponsored. Come on, if
this happened we all know it would end up with game titles such as…[thinks for
a moment]…Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Pizza Hut edition”
That being said some participants did see beyond this perception with the indication that
some games could benefit from this if they ensured that the congruence between the
game and product was high (B72: “I suppose it could work with certain games such as a
Porsche edition of Gran Turismo but I don’t think it will be welcome by most gamers”
LCBR European Marketing Conference 2014 14
Promotion
The only element of Around-Game Advertising which gained strong positive comments
was that of Promotion with perception being that this form of advertising was less intrusive,
offering additional revenue streams for all gaming genres (D117: “Advertising in this way
means that all game genres can now be used as a vehicle for promoting products to
gamers as you cannot really justify Mountain Dew appearing in Halo, so this is the only
way”). In addition, for the products which were used in the focus group, gamers felt that
there were strong links between these and the gaming community (C93: “I like the fact that
I play these games, buy these products and now there is a link between them. Makes me
feel as though companies recognise the importance of gamers such as myself as
consumers”). However, no that point it was also pointed out that there is a danger of
companies over reaching with this form of advertising with one participant providing a
cautionary warning for companies wishing to associate their products with games in this
manner, indicating that great care has to be taken over what type of product is being
promoted to the gamer (C95: “I like this as I can see the link between the product and
gamers. However, I’m worried that companies will just link any old product they feel like to
try and get us to buy them. Energy drinks I can understand but if they try this for say
washing up liquid, I don’t think so!”).
Conclusion
In conclusion, the research outlined here represents one of the first examinations of gamer
attitudes towards product-game associations through the Around-Game Advertising
element of Promotional Merchandise. Although we accept that in terms of quantitative
results our sample size is too small to make generalisations to the wider gaming
community, for our participants we found that:
Advertising through games ranks highly when compared to traditional mediums;
Exposure to Around-Game Advertising softened attitudes towards general
advertising;
Exposure to Around-Game Advertising softened negative attitudes towards the
concept of Game Advertising as a whole;
Promotional merchandise could be an extremely effective way to promote products
to gamers (based on findings associated with carbonated soft drinks and energy
drinks).
These offer some important insights which require further examination, as it would appear,
at least for our participants, that being exposed to an advertising mechanism which is
deemed to be less intrusive than other forms of Game Advertising can have a positive
impact on attitudes. As our research was only exploratory in nature, we would encourage
future examinations into this area to be more in-depth and to look at the use of Around-
Game Advertising to promote other product categories.
LCBR European Marketing Conference 2014 15
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... The research outlined in this paper links to the first stage of a PhD project entitled 'Fantasy Game-Product Congruence: An Exploration of Game Advertising and UK Gamer Attitudes towards Around-game Advertising through Promotional Merchandise' (Smith, 2015). This initial phase was an SLR which is defined as being "…a transparent, comprehensive and replicable process for identifying and synthesising accessible academic research", (Smith, Sun and Mackie, 2014, p. 104). ...
... Moreover, although the Game Advertising industry is viewed as "…the fastest growing and most exciting category of mass media" (Marchand and Hennig-Thurau, 2013, p. 141) this SLR has shown that there is still limited research being conducted which offers any clear conclusive evidence of its direct impact on sales. This is especially true in connection with the facet of Around-Game Advertising as despite this being shown as being the least intrusive form of Game Advertising which can have a positive impact on consumer attitudes (Smith et al., 2014a) and is the only form of Game Advertising which provides gamers with an instant purchase opportunity at the time of exposure (Smith, 2015) remains relatively unexplored in terms of academic research. ...
... Moreover, although the Game Advertising industry is viewed as "…the fastest growing and most exciting category of mass media" (Marchand and Hennig-Thurau, 2013, p. 141) this SLR has shown that there is still limited research being conducted which offers any clear conclusive evidence of its direct impact on sales. This is especially true in connection with the facet of Around-Game Advertising as despite this being shown as being the least intrusive form of Game Advertising which can have a positive impact on consumer attitudes (Smith et al., 2014a) and is the only form of Game Advertising which provides gamers with an instant purchase opportunity at the time of exposure (Smith, 2015) remains relatively unexplored in terms of academic research. ...
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