E Channel: BellSouth Tests 'Advergaming' with High-Speed DSL Campaign

Channel Partners

February 1, 2002

4 Min Read
E Channel: BellSouth Tests 'Advergaming' with High-Speed DSL Campaign

Posted: 2/2002


BellSouth Tests ‘Advergaming’ with High-Speed DSL Campaign

By Josh Long

56K modem has blasted your spacecraft’s shield. If you don’t snatch a few DSL power nodes in the next few moments, your ship could be obliterated.

Welcome to BellSouth Corp’s telecommunications version of Galactica — a deep-space adventure in which players mash the space bar on their keyboard, destroying pizzas and TVs among other Earth debris at warp speed. Watch out for the cable modems — they will slow you down.

In an advertising campaign aimed to promote its high-speed DSL service, BellSouth disseminated e-mails to customers and other potential high-speed candidates a week

before Thanksgiving, inviting them to play “SpaceSweep.”

BellSouth executives are calling it a word-of-mouth campaign, but SpaceSweep is just one example of a new brand of electronic advertising: Advergames.

The online video games, which could cost a business a few thousand dollars or upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars, promote a company’s brand name and products.

Analysts and gaming vendors say the marketing strategy is a great way to garner demographic information while drilling a brand name into a player’s head. For companies such as long-distance providers and Internet service providers, that kind of personal customer information is “very, very valuable,” says Jane Chen, director of research at New York-based . helps Fortune 1000 companies in the media and entertainment sectors develop an online branding and customer relationship strategy. Chen says players often are required to enter their names, e-mails and phone numbers among other information in conjunction with winning a prize or perhaps getting their name posted on a leader’s board. In contrast, advertisers normally don’t acquire the same demographic information when a web surfer clicks on a banner ad. And while a banner ad draws one’s attention for a moment, gamers are exposed to a company’s promotion — such as BellSouth’s FastAccess DSL — for several minutes. “People will play for an extended period of time,” says Chen, noting contestants spend between six and 10 minutes playing a game. “Nobody is going to stare at a banner ad for 10 minutes.” Marketers typically target males ages 12-35, including users with broadband connections, says Chen. Females play as many games, but they tend to enjoy parlor-type games like Hearts and Solitaire, whereas men seem to prefer sporting and adventure games.BellSouth offered customers the game to acquire DSL customers and to educate them on why high-speed Internet access makes such a difference, says Alison Lebreton, senior director of broadband marketing. To regain their shield and pick up velocity, gamers must snatch FastAccess DSL in space — BellSouth’s branded high-speed service. After the game ends, a player can challenge a friend or learn more about FastAccess DSL and order the service. Lebreton says BellSouth recorded 30 percent more visits to the playground, where people can sign up to download the game, than they had anticipated. BellSouth is not the only large telecommunications pro-vider likely to design a video game in 2002. Kent Mar, CEO of San Francisco-based VirtualGiveaway Corp., a company that designs advergames based around sweepstakes, says he is in talks with some wireless carriers to develop games.Wireless carriers would be able to offer their customers a new option while perhaps generating revenue through advertisers, Mar says. And gamers would be chewing up airtime, possibly bringing in carrier revenue, based on the number of minutes they stayed online or how much bandwidth they consumed. He adds gaming is a non-intrusive advertising strategy. Mar says in the near future, most advergames offered over a cellular device would be relatively simple. Controls for many popular PC games are relatively basic. Gamers mostly use a keyboard, not a joystick. At BellSouth some gamers have signed up for high-speed DSL access. “We are not disclosing the numbers, but we are very pleased with the results and we will be doing more of this in the future,” says BellSouth spokesman Todd Smith. Chen says branding might be an advergame’s strongest selling point.Kelly Enstrom, a spokeswoman for WildTangent Inc., a company that has developed games for movie studies and automobile manufacturers among other businesses, agrees.“It seems to me they are most interested in promoting their brand, but RadioShack found it so successful in selling their remote control vehicles, that they did it again,” Enstrom says. Perhaps the mainstream telecommunications sector will participate in advergaming in 2002, but so far, few have embraced it.

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