Did you know that on any given day, you’re exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements? Advertising is so ingrained in consumers lives that it’s no surprise it’s now a popular monetization strategy used in video games. In-game advertising is exactly what it sounds like: when brands advertise their products or services in electronic games.
Gaming advertising comes with a slew of benefits like increased user engagement and retention, opportunities to build greater brand awareness, and the ability to reach millions of users worldwide. But, if it’s done in the right way, this monetization strategy can also drive some serious revenue for brands.
If you’re not sure what this strategy looks like in action, or what makes certain in-game advertisements more effective than others, you’ve come to the right the most effective methods for video game advertising.
In-Game Advertising Methods
As you read about examples of the most effective in-game advertisements, you’ll come across terms like dynamic versus static in-game ads, as well as advergaming. To give a quick breakdown of each, dynamic in-game ads are ads that can change inside of a game over time.
The most common way dynamic ads present themselves is in the form of billboards or posters placed in strategic areas of the game where users are likely to see and remember the ad. For example, you may see a billboard for Pepsi inside a video game, and a few weeks later that same billboard may now display Dominoes.
Static ads stay the same and actually came before dynamic in-game ads. You can also find static ads in the form of a billboard or poster, but the main difference here is that the advertisement doesn’t change. Are you familiar with product placement in movies or tv shows? This is what static ads are most similar to.
Dynamic ads can be one of the least expensive types. This is due to the fact that a brand will likely remove their ad at some point, especially if it’s for a time-sensitive campaign. While static ads can vary in price depending on the level of integration in the game, a brand can typically expect to pay more since the ad will live in the game permanently.
Advergaming takes things a step further. It’s when a brand produces or develops its own video game, or when a brand makes its product or service a fundamental part of the game. Some pros to using this strategy? It’s a less intrusive way to advertise. Plus, because it’s a key part of the game, users don’t feel annoyed by the interruption or appearance of an ad.
However, advergaming is usually the most expensive method of in-game advertising since the brand has to invest in the development of an actual video game.
15 Best Examples of In-Game Advertising
As video games grew substantially in popularity, it didn’t take long for brands to realize the many reasons to use in-game advertising. Below are some of the most effective examples of brands using in-game advertising.
1). Buzz Cola in the Simpsons Game
The Simpsons decided to take its television success and translate that into a video game with the debut of its video game Hit and Run. Users came across several displays and interactions with Buzz Cola, a popular drink in the hit show.
Players can see a Buzz Cola truck driving around town, and some of the challenges in the game also involve the drink. A more subtle form of in-game advertising, Buzz Cola is an analogy to the real-life Coca-Cola, or Coke. This is an ingenious way to advertise the well-known soft drink because it’s less in-your-face that other in-game advertisements.
Try out the game yourself, and after a couple of challenges and drives around Springfield, you may find yourself craving a can of Coke.
2). Mastercard and League of Legends
Credit card brand Mastercard has led a successful, affluent partnership with Riot Games’ League of Legends video game. Their advertising partnership began with Mastercard renting arena banners in Summoner’s Rift, which is a frequently visited location inside of the game.
An example of dynamic advertising, the partnership has evolved into something much bigger. Mastercard became an official partner for the League of Legends’ European Championship in 2018. This involves several unique digital experiences created by Mastercard that allow fans to have exclusive access to different parts of the game.
League of Legends is a wildly popular video game and virtual world, giving Mastercard an enormous amount of exposure to users worldwide. The partnership is a genius move on Mastercard’s part and signifies their shift into digital marketing.
Pepsiman is a great example of advergaming. Developed by game developed KID, Pepsiman was a video game made for PlayStation. Masquerading as a Pepsi-themed superhero, the game functions as an endless runner game.
This is a type of game where the player runs for an infinite amount of time, making sure to avoid obstacles. Your objective in an endless runner game is to reach as high of a score as possible by surviving for as long as you can.
The premise of Pepsiman in particular revolves around saving dehydrated people by nourishing them with a refreshing Pepsi. You’re also met with gaming advertisements in between levels by watching a video of a man drinking Pepsi.
While this type of video game advertising is much more in-your-face than other methods, it was extremely effective for increasing brand awareness for Pepsi. The game itself is easy to play and fun for most users, as long as you’re not particularly bothered by repeat images of Pepsi branding.
4). Chipotle Scarecrow
Another genius example of advergaming? Meet the Chipotle Scarecrow. It’s an arcade-style adventure game developed by, you guessed it, Chipotle. Compatible with most Apple products like iPhones and iPads, this game shows a scarecrow’s arduous journey to bring nutritious food to people by providing a healthier alternative to the processed food that has taken over his world.
This game idea springboards off of Chipotle’s typical sort of advertising, but in a more interactive way. Users can play in this animated world and correct the wrongdoings done by Crow Foods. Fly through the city, known as Plenty in the game, to help confined animals find open pastures, fill fields with a variety of wholesome crops, and deliver food to the city’s people.
The goal is to accomplish these tasks while avoiding Crowbots, and with each level you pass, the city starts to return to its former state of beauty, which is how the Scarecrow lovingly remembers it.
You have to give points to Chipotle for some serious creativity here. It also helps users connect the idea of nourishing food and a wholesome mission to Chipotle’s brand image.
5). Nike and Puma in NBA 2K
A more natural display of in-game advertising is the display ads seen in NBA 2k22 that show shoe brands Nike and Puma. Virtual Concepts, an American video game developer, struck a deal with both brands to place their logos in the game.
You can see these brands on billboards and in-play ads as you’re playing on the court. It doesn’t come as a major shock to users to see these familiar brand names since they’re both typically associated with professional sports, and even worn by professional athletes.
This example signifies the use of a marketing method known as native advertising, or when the type of advertising matches the format of the platform it appears on. A major benefit to advertisers is that users are less likely to feel annoyed or put off by the advertisement since it’s a brand already associated with the theme of the video game.
6). Burger King: PocketBike Racer
Another advergame popular in the early 2000’s, PocketBike Racer was made by Blitz Games for the Xbox and Xbox 360. The Burger King mascot is the main player, known as “The King”, and you can choose from five different tracks to race on (which includes a Burger King restaurant parking lot).
The objective is to win races and unlock achievements, so it’s pretty easy to get started. A unique in-game angle, Burger King offered up this advergame for just $3.99 with any purchase of a Burger King value meal.
Over time, with the development of Mario Kart, this advergame became less popular but it still achieved Burger King’s mission of increasing brand awareness, ROI success, and user engagement. Plus, the burger-related theme was catchy and fun for users.
7). Chex Mix Quest
Continuing on the advergame trend is another brand-based video game: Chex Mix Quest. Choose from a variety of characters—some of which represent the different kinds of chex and pretzels found inside Chex Mix—to start your journey.
Your main aim in this game is to defeat the cereal-eating Flemoids and send them back to their home dimension. This advergame was actually derived from an earlier, original version that could be found in Chex cereal boxes (in the format of a CD-ROM) back in 1996. Fast forward nearly 25 years, and General Mills signed a deal with ID Software to develop what users know today as Chex Mix Quest.
Not only is the game fun and engaging, but it’s also a great way for Chex Mix to tie in its product to unique characters. And the 1996 version was also ultra-successful, pulling in a sales increase of 248%.
8). RapidFire and Pete the Dragon
Another example of a dynamic in-game advertisement is when Disney partnered with software developer RapidFire to promote the animated movie Pete the Dragon. In 2016, RapidFire used dynamic in-game ads to display the movie on billboards and banners in video games like FIFA, as well as other sports and adventure-centered digital games.
RapidFire also made use of an effective advertising strategy known as geotargeting, or when different types of ads are directed to users based on their geolocation. In this case, the Pete the Dragon ads were targeted toward Portuguese users. This helped advertise the movie leading up to its release by reminding users of the upcoming film.
9). Fortnite and Air Jordans
Fortnite has been wildly popular ever since its 2017 release date, so it’s no surprise that brands are vying for their spot to advertise inside the game. And as if the Jordan brand didn’t already have one of the highest levels of brand recognition, the shoe giant announced its partnership with Fortnite on December 1st, 2021.
The deal included some pretty cool stuff for Fortnite players. Users are invited to compete for Air Jordan XI Cool Gray, known as an iconic shoe in the world of sneakers. What’s more, players are also able to gain access to rooms dedicated to the best players.
The best part? The best players get access to a virtual museum, a basketball court, plus an immersive video that ties in with the Jordan brand. The unique product placement seen in this in-game advertising example is definitely noteworthy. Besides, who wouldn’t want to redeem an exclusive pair of Jordans?
10). Louis Vuitton in League of Legends
A different sort of in-game advertisement, Louis Vuitton made its debut in the fan-favorite video game League of Legends back in 2019. The luxury brand collaborated with Riot Games to offer users an array of high-end digital assets.
Players in the 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals were met with a number of incentives: The winner of the Summoner’s Cup would be awarded a Louis Vuitton travel case. Rumor has it that this case took over 900 hours to make.
Other features seen in this in-game ad collaboration include unique skins for players made by one of Louis Vuitton’s top designers, Nicholas Ghesquiere, as well as other ultra-lux digital assets.
While most users playing League of Legends probably don’t shop from Louis Vuitton often, the in-game ad still increased brand awareness. It also added a touch of opulence that created an increased incentive for winning the championship, ultimately deepening user engagement and retention.
11). US Presidential Campaign in Madden NFL 13
In 2012, the Obama campaign expanded its political advertisements to the virtual world. Back in 2008, the Obama campaign was advertised on virtual billboards in countless video games like Guitar Hero III, Nascar 09, and Burnout Paradise.
Fast forward four years and the Obama campaign once again displayed advertisements in a video game, this time Madden NFL 13. The advantage of doing this was the ability to target a specific demographic with political ads. Since most of the games where these ads were displayed are played online, advertisers have the ability to zero in on users in areas where they believe the ads will be most effective.
Going forward, more of these political ads may start showing up in video games since they reflect the current cultural and political reality of the real world for virtual users.
12). Adidas banner in FIFA International Sports
This example might seem super obvious; after all, Adidas is considered the most popular shoe brand as far as soccer goes. But that obvious quality is precisely what makes this such an effective in-game ad.
Too often, consumers feel bombarded with ads, feeling numb or apathetic to most brands they come across. But in the case of FIFA and Adidas, Adidas’s natural tie-in to soccer makes this banner ad welcome to FIFA players and soccer fans.
It’s also a play on native advertising. If you were to attend, or play in, an international soccer game, chances are you’d come across a multitude of advertisements displayed on billboards and banners at the game. So it’s only natural that the video game version of this experience mimics that by presenting one of the most well-known brands in soccer, Adidas.
Also, since soccer, and in turn, FIFA, is a game loved by fans worldwide, Adidas is able to score even more eyes on this in-game ad.
13). Crossy Road
Ever heard of an in-game advertisement that advertises another video game? Users see this all of the time, especially on mobile game apps when the game prompts you to download a related game for free.
In this case, Crossy Road added a content update to advertise a new version of the classic PacMan game, PacMan 256. Essentially, the idea is that after you play a round in Crossy Road, you’re able to select a new PacMan character.
You’re then able to play as PacMan, and can score other PacMan characters like Inky after you complete certain challenges like eating 50 power pellets.
This type of immersive in-game ad allows teams to cross-promote other games within a game. Users of Crossy Road were then made aware of the upcoming release of PacMan 256, if they weren’t already, and thus more inclined to download and play that game once it released.
14). Angry Birds Go and State Farm
Remember Angry Birds? This ultra-popular mobile game was and still is a global success. So it’s not exactly shocking that brands want to advertise inside of it. State Farm was one brand in particular that did just that.
State Farm worked with the developer of Angry Birds Go, Rovio, to create a native advertising campaign inside the game. The premise of the Angry Birds Go game built on the previous success of Angry Birds and allowed users to race their favorite characters from the Angry Birds series.
The in-game advertisement came from a State Farm-branded power-up users could employ while racing. How did this work exactly? When players experienced challenges on the course like a damaged vehicle, the State Farm power-up allowed them to seamlessly fix the car and keep racing.
This strategy of video game advertising was unique in that it created a relationship between the user and the brand. It also played on the real-life promise of State Farm—to “get people back to a better state” through reliable insurance.
Another pro to this method? Angry Birds players saw this ad as a helpful surprise, not an unwanted interruption. This allowed users to build a positive brand association with State Farm.
15). Crazy Taxi
For the last example of in-game advertising, Crazy Taxi demonstrates how product placement can add a more immersive experience for users. Plus, it can help advertisers with brand recognition.
Sega released Crazy Taxi in 1999. It was a popular arcade game that included several product placements, but in a way that matched the theme of the game. In Crazy Taxi, you drive around in a large yellow cab, completing challenges and winning rewards, all while trying to beat the clock.
To make the fictional town that the course is set in appear more real, game developers partnered with brands like Pizza Hut, KFC, Tower Records, and FILA. There was an actual Pizza Hut and KFC restaurant located in the game, which gave a more life-like feel to the video game.
Nowadays, you can play Crazy Taxi on your mobile device or laptop using the Steam platform. Not only is the game still loved by many, but the product placements strategically included throughout offer greater exposure to brands in a natural, more authentic way.
Upgrade Your AdTech Today
All in all, in-game advertising can be an incredibly effective way for brands to increase revenue, brand recognition, and create a more engaging experience for game players. These 15 examples show how brands and game developers can successfully collaborate by using a variety of strategies and methods like dynamic advertising, static advertising, or advergames.
Whether you’re looking for help with in-game advertising, programmatic development, or SEO help, Media Shark has you covered. Fill out their form today for a project consultation, or contact them at email@example.com for more information. Media Shark will help you take your digital advertising ideas to the next level in no time!