June 21st, 2011

With Xbox’s New In-Game Advertising, Engagement Is the Goal

The New York Times

Users of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect gaming console will soon be able to use voice and motion commands to interact with advertisements while they are playing their favorite game or watching a video.

On Tuesday, Microsoft is set to announce a new suite of advertising tools, called NUads, short for natural user-interface ads, that will let users interact with advertising on the console dashboard or embedded in games and other video content. The ads use the same voice and motion control developed for the company’s Kinect game console, which it introduced in time for the 2010 holiday season.

The new ads are intended to help advertisers keep the attention of Xbox users in a way that traditional television advertising does not.

“When you have highly interactive people and a passive medium, they are interacting with their phone or their laptop while watching TV,” said Mark Kroese, the general manager of the advertising business group at Microsoft. The new ads, Mr. Kroese said, “create a natural way for the user to engage with the TV.”

At least one advertising agency seems to agree.

“The new ad units really epitomized the level of engagement that everyone is working towards,” said John M. Lisko, the executive communications director of Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, part of the Publicis Groupe. Mr. Lisko said the agency had successfully advertised on the Xbox console in the past and was “absolutely considering” the new capabilities. “You can text, you can tweet, you can vote,” he said. “That’s phenomenal.”

Using voice commands, gamers will be able to send messages about an ad to a social networking site like Twitter by saying “Xbox Tweet.” Advertisers who want to send more information about a product or promotion associated with a campaign can prompt Xbox users to say “Xbox More,” which will send users an e-mail with the information they wanted.

For advertising tied to events like television shows, advertisers can prompt a user to say “Xbox Schedule” and the system will send a text message reminder to the user’s mobile phone. Similarly, advertisers can prompt users to say “Xbox Near Me” and a map to the nearest retailer will be sent to their mobile phone. Finally, advertisers can prompt users to vote on a topic by asking the user to wave their hand in front of the console and select their favorite pizza topping, superhero or clothing brand.

The new advertising options will be presented on Tuesday to advertisers at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, an annual conference for advertisers and marketers. Consumers will begin to see the new features in the spring of 2012.

The new ads will be simple for marketers to deploy since they can use the same commercials they would use on television.

“What we’re seeing now is a technology environment where marketers can deliver more sophisticated ads and they don’t have some of the hurdles that in-game marketers and in-game publishers had,” said Paul Verna, a senior analyst at eMarketer. “It’s a level of interactivity that suggests more possibilities than we’ve seen up until now.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/business/media/21xbox.html?ref=technology

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