Research: In-Game Ads for Action Games a Bad Idea

New research from the University of Texas notes that players have trouble remembering brands advertised in action games with violent content. According to the new study, ads that appear in violent games actually may have a negative effect on the brand being sold with those playing the violent games they are being advertised in.

The study, authored by doctoral candidate Seung-Chul Yoo and assistant professor Jorge Pena, will appear in the July/August issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. The study's main claim to fame is that it is the first to link "increased video game violence and impaired in-game ad effectiveness." Fair enough.

Researchers divided participants into two groups: the first group explored a number of rooms that included blood spots on the floor, while being attacked by computer-controlled characters wielding weapons. The second group was presented with a nonviolent take of the same setting, with players walking through rooms with water spots and encountering empty-handed AI-controlled NPCs. In the violent version of the scenario, participants were wielding weapons and being shot at.

After the demo ended, participants were asked to recall the brands advertised within the test world and offer their perceptions of those brands in that context. Those who participated in the violent scenario had a significantly lower score when it came to brand recollection and perception. Women had a more negative response to the violent content than men. Researchers believe the reason for this is because women have less experience with violent games than men who play them more frequently.

Yoo and Pena came to the conclusion that violent content distracts attention away from ads, and creates a subconscious association between the negative imagery and the brand being advertised. They said that a similar effect has been documented with television.

"Advertising campaign planners would do better to spend their budget on ads embedded in nonviolent video games than in ads placed within violent video games; particularly if they are trying to reach women," said Yoo.

Or maybe advertisers should be smart in the way they place ads in games where there is a lot of action, violence and gore.

Source: GameSpot

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  1. 0
    Felgard says:

    as staded before in most action games or fast paced games one does not have time and intrest to look at ads the only place ads in such games would have any real effect is if they put them upp when loading

  2. 0
    Adaptor says:

    "Or maybe advertisers should be smart in the way they place ads in games where there is a lot of action, violence and gore."

    What about flashing an ad every time you get 50 xp for a kill in Call of Duty? That would certainly work from a Pavlovian conditioning perspective…

  3. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    Yet another study showing the bleeding obvious. I'll bet if they had players frenziedly dodging cuddly panda toys, they would find that cuddly panda toys make people hate ads too. The fact is, if you're wandering aimlessly through otherwise boring rooms, you're going to want to look at the ads.

    But I guess at least this study will tend to make gullible game developers put fewer ads in their action games. You gotta love that.

  4. 0
    vellocet says:

    All you need to do to reverse the study is to say something like "Get your revenge with Mountain Dew" during the death screen.  Bad ads are bad ads.  Good ads are good ads and that means well targeted and done at the right time.

  5. 0
    Kajex says:

    I remember playing Battlefield: 2142, and the hullaballoo surrounding its in-game programming that checked to see what ads you were looking at while in-game.

    Thing was… I was the team dropship pilot. EVERYONE attacks the dropship. NOBODY looks at the in-game ads, least of all me.

  6. 0
    Chaltab says:

    Seems to me like this is a pretty weak study because even in most non-violent games, you're not just strolling casually through a room full of puddles. The need to not get shot explains why the players don't remember the adds and the fact they might be distracting could explain the antipathy toward the brands after the fact.

  7. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    I very much doubt it was the violence; my money's on the frenetic action being the culprit.  $20 says you'd find the same result in any fast-paced game (violent or not) where success is dependent on the player paying attention to the action.

    Tell you what.  Have a group play Tetris on high difficulty and see if they notice an ad on the border.

    Or here's another: have a group play Rock Band or Guitar Hero and see if they notice any ads in the background.


    Andrew Eisen

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