When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

PS4 could offer first of its kind advertising

While Sony gave little away about what the PlayStation 4 might be able to offer brands, the console’s launch event did offer some insight as to the never before seen plays it might afford advertisers.

Lara O'Reilly

What Sony did do was make it undeniably clear that the PS4 is the next generation console for gamers. Real gamers. Not the office workers who dabble at Candy Crush Saga on the train platform or the kids pinching their dad’s phone to play Angry Birds. Proper gamers who form companies of men with virtual friends to battle other teams on Call of Duty and favour writing online walk-through-guides to updating a blog.

DuBose Cole, strategist at Mindshare UK, told Marketing Week it is likely Sony has more under the bonnet in terms of content partnerships and ad opportunities - as well as actually revealing what the bloody thing looks like.

He added: “The launch was described as a statement of intent from Sony, it was a clear statement about developers making amazing games for the platform. At E3 [the world’s largest video games event], now they’ve done the initial salvo, there will be a wider narrative and more on media functionality.”

While Sony has a challenge to keep excitement bubbling until this summer’s E3, it will also be going head to head with rival Microsoft at the event, which is also set to be announcing its next generation console.

From a brand perspective, Microsoft has made a great play of building out its advertising propositions for brands, including Kinect gesture control and targeted formats on the Xbox hub. It follows that Sony will be looking to rival Microsoft in this space as it looks to squeeze out more revenue from a market that is becoming almost entirely unreliant on high margin physical goods.

Brands could potentially tap into the PS4’s features in some very creative ways, playing to its core gamer demographic – which is likely to be completely focused on the screen and more likely to pay attention to marketers’ ads.

The PS4 includes a new feature called Ustream, which lets users broadcast their gameplay to friends who can offer help or commentary on the action in real time. They can also share videos for others to watch at a later date, which could offer brands the opportunity to become content curators on the platform. In the same way advertisers have sponsored BuzzFeed articles and brands have collated user-generated YouTube videos, they could move into this new space to promote epic fails in games or showcase the best gamers in the world.

Sony’s aim is to socialise the gaming experience even further beyond the living room than before, as demonstrated by the inclusion of a “share” button on the PS4’s controller.

Cole says it’s difficult to see whether the live stream aspect of this experience will catch on, or whether it will be an obscure version of just waiting your turn in single-player mode, but if it does he believes brands could play a part in gamifying that wait.

Advertisers could potentially tap into the same mechanics as social gaming by giving gamers the opportunity to gift their friends branded boosts or extra lives – like King.com’s debut format – or branded incentives to encourage gamers to compete with each other.

While such ideas are hypothetical at the moment, brands should start thinking about how they can galvanise the gaming space in a way that doesn’t jar with the experience.

Media agencies currently have a challenge in convincing brands to buy into gaming – not least because the formats available are restrictive to spaces such as banner advertising inside football games or creating apps that aren’t given much visibility on the console’s home screen.

The PS4’s move to socialise the experience is set to allow brands much more creativity and justification to be the power behind the next generation gaming landscape.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Having worked at EA for a number of years and been part of the teams that put together promotions with Coca-Cola and adidas, the idea of in-game advertising is nothing new.

    Branded in-game incentives and even virtual dorna boards were already a common practice in the videogame industry by the time I arrived as a fresh-faced marketer in 2005.

    The real opportunity is definitely UStream where there's an opportunity to create inventory around game streams. Gamers aren't adverse to advertising within their core hobby providing it's authentic and credible.

    The key in building large-scale advertising opportunities in games is to offer brands something unique that they can't buy as inventory elsewhere. Whatever Sony do they have to pander to the gamer market not shoe-horn standard practices onto their platforms.

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  • "... brands should start thinking about how they can galvanise the gaming space in a way that doesn’t jar with the experience."

    What both games (devs/ publishers) and brands need is a platform dedicated to garnering qualitative data from players on how best to do that.

    Such a thing will soon exist.

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  • So far as I can tell, there are 2 important points which this article reveals:
    1. Advertisements- So long as these advertisements do not detract from the core gaming experience, I'm fine with it. They would detract if they interrupted gaming, either by sight or sound. The ads would have to be non-intrusive.
    Also, I think it's a must that those who pay for Playstation Plus are given the option to turn the ads off.
    2. Social Networking- I would personally never use this, nor would anyone I know personally. However, I'd imagine this could be quite big for those who have an online following/ have a facebook group with a bunch of friends and want to share something which happened in-game.

    Of course, neither of these elements of the PS4 are what gamers really care about. We want to see the PS4! Come on Sony!

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