Smart Advertising: Advertisements taken to the Smart Level

Let’s get this out of the way. I’m not the biggest fan of ads, I hardly watch television anymore because of all the commercials, and 30 second ads before videos boil my blood. There is nothing worse than trying to watch a show or video that is supremely excellent but having to watch corporate propaganda being shoved down your throat first. Banner ads annoy me to a lesser extent but the grievance is still slightly there. Glad we could get that off our chest.

 The future?!?

We seem to be entering a stage where advertising is experiencing a revolution. “Smart Advertising,” if you will, is becoming more of a thing. Companies are opting out for advertising that actually has a soul, being user-friendly, entertaining, and consumable in a bite-sized package. This would serve as an alternative to the old school of advertising, where information is shoved into the consumer’s throat, via pop-out ads and the like. Personally, I find this disgusting, and it often results in me being less likely to buy a company’s product when they force one to watch the ad while blocking the content that they were there for in the first place. Thankfully, there seems to be a shift taking place. With smart games, awesome trailers, quests sponsored by companies, and huge campaigns driven by the manliest of men, advertisers seem to be getting more in touch with the consumer and are trying to add variety to our lives, and variety, I can get behind.

I define advertising as the way a company goes about raising the awareness of its product, educating potential buyers on why it is the best among its peers, all in an attempt to change the buyer’s consumption habits. Wikipedia defines advertising as, “a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to purchase or take some action upon products, ideals, or services. It includes the name of a product or service and how that product or service could benefit the consumer, to persuade a target market to purchase or to consume that particular brand.” I would define “Smart Advertising” with the same denotation as advertising while adding the lost obtrusiveness, and added engagement of the community. 
 

 It's ok, admire him, admire him all you want.

A couple of weeks (or months ago, I’m bad with time)   Old Spice launched their “Smell like a man” campaign where Isaiah Mustafah, also known as the “Old Spice guy” would speak directly to the consumer, answering internet queries and finally answering our pleas to define what makes a man, manly. People actually would go on YouTube, and seek out the ad, and in the absence of throat-shoving, consumers wanted to watch the Old Spice ad. Now this, to me, seems like an outrageous success. It was/is “cool” to talk about the Old Spice ads, and hell, even Alyssa Milano got into it, which not only raises the company’s reputation but also gives the illusion that the company actually cares about the consumer more than how thick Proctor and Gamble’s wallet is. The ads themselves were smart, user friendly, and most importantly personalized and invaded the consumer conscious of millions. It became a social media event as consumers were contributing to the ad through the Old Spice man’s twitter account where the advertisers could personally address the people generating a feeling of involvement which, I think, is the basis of advertising intelligently. After all, which advertisement would a consumer rather heed, the one that is goofy and fun to watch, or the obnoxious distracting banner ads advertising a competing brand? Now I will not speak of Old Spice product itself since I’ve never used it and hey, it might be a piece of crap, but the advertisement agency successfully entered the consumer conscious of millions of consumers and did so well, seeing as the agency behind the campaign, Wieden & Kennedy, claims a sales increase of over 100%. So obviously, this type of ad works.

Advergaming is not at all a new term; however, it is an awesome alternative to regular advertisements often using simple flash games to convey a message and attempt to get the consumer excited for a product. Flash game websites like Kongregate have been doing this recently; their game White Castle Chase provides a simple semi-entertaining flash game that serves its purpose well enough. Since Kongregate is a website consisting of flash video games, and they need revenue to manage hosting, I see no better way of generating that revenue than making a game that is sponsored by a company willing to pay to sell their product. Another example, would be that of the recent 8-bit Expendables game, an awesome, fun little game that provides mindless entertainment and piques our nostalgia, while still conveying a message: “Hey, The Expendables is coming out!” - all without being intrusive. And the last example that comes to mind, Doritos’ Dash of Destruction, is a free XBLA game developed by the modest indie dev NinjaBee. The game was free, and offered a tantalizingly easy to accrue 200 point gamerscore. While there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the game, it seemed like its only drawing power was its easy gamerscore. In other occasions, overkill can occur. If revenue overrides the primary purpose of a website, and creativity gets hampered due to advergaming, it can be a huge negative and in no way am I touting that advergaming should replace actual games. And this brings us to the dreaded in-game advertisements.

  I voted for Obama, he was in my vidja games!

 In game advertisements are another form of advergaming and can completely ruin immersion and sometimes feel outright forced yet at other times can be perfectly well suited and natural. In Alan Wake’s downloadable content expansion, “The Signal” there is a long drawn out cutscene where it is made extremely clear that Verizon is Mr. Wake’s cellphone provider.   But on the other side of the coin, there are examples where product placement can enhance the experience and actually add some form of subtle immersion. In various racing games while driving through bustling cities, if ads are placed where one expects to find them, it can enhance the experience, and make the overall package more realistic. For example, if one is driving down Time’s Square in , one would expect giant and extravagant LED screens popping out with vibrant ads for various trifles. It can sometimes be better than having those same screens being filled out with corny imagined off-brands so the game developer won’t get sued (even though, sometimes these off-brands are hilarious).   Overall, advergaming is confusing; at one end of the spectrum where it can be an awesome substitute to conventional advertisements and enhance a game experience, yet at the other where it becomes overly saturated, limiting creativity, and eventually shoving advertisements down a consumer’s throat.

 Awesome.

Finally, we have Giantbomb, and Whiskey Media in general. Whiskey Media is doing a great job getting a revenue stream, while still not putting advertisements in your face. Even though we have had some advertisements that don’t seem too fitting (Eat, Pray, Love), overall the team has been doing a great job. When advertising for Halo: ODST began the ever impressing (which I think should become more common) acquisition of an awesome skin to the various Halo: ODST related pages strewn through the site, all the while engaging the community in various contests about Halo: ODST. Dragon Age: Origins had a similar advertisement campaign on GiantBomb, where they encouraged the community to make their own advertisements for Dragon Age, in the form of image macros and community-built videos. This made the campaign a community based event, and rather than forcing 30 second videos about Dragon Age before any and every video, the staff got the community interested and invested. Finally, the newly made quest system allows a fun way to advertise. While the initial attempt at this using BestBuy made the quest a little too easy and not really related to computers, having a banner ad where members could discuss what they looked for in a computer was pretty ingenious. In the future companies could use the quest system to raise customer awareness about their product using the wiki page. I know I love learning about videogame-related goodness through the quest system, why not learn about the Gears of War universe through a Gears of War 3 sponsored quest? It would engage the community, raise awareness of the product, and acquire revenue, a perfect example of smart advertising. Luckily, it seems Whiskey Media will be continuing down this path, since they tout on their website the outrageous successes they have experienced using these advertising methods, all to sway companies to continue doing smart advertising.

 Let's override greed, with creativity.

We live in a consumerist, materialistic society. People have attics filled with objects they no longer use (I know I do) and every day we see countless memos telling us that the old things we have are obsolete and you, the consumer, needs to go outside and buy a replacement, or in this day in age hop on to a computer and get it delivered. I get it, this is how our society runs, but if we can somehow make these messages commanding consumers to consume, more fun and user-involved, not only can companies increase sales, but the consumer, or at least I, can retain a greater sense of his dignity and feel less like a tool. When advertisements inhibit the experience that I am scouting for, at the end of the day I get tired of it. As I’ve said I can no longer watch television because the myriad mindless messages from sponsors that pollute the airwaves. Which is why I really hope this revolution becomes a full fledged deal, and not only websites start following the brave leaders carrying us forward but television networks can also learn a thing or two, along the way. While I could continue rambling about advertising in a smart matter (trailers come to mind) at the end of the day advertising is a form of revenue that keeps a lot of things free, and by no means should free things stop being free, but this revolution in advertising that we (I hope) are experiencing is one that I (and you?) can gladly get behind.

So what do you, a consumer, think? Do you think this is just nonsense? Are you tired of television? Do you find the Old Spice guy attractive? Do BestBuy laptops put the twinkle in your star? Now, excuse me, while we get a word from our sponsors…

7 Comments

Load Screens

As we speak, I have waited patiently for the mission, "Gates to El Presidio" to load. I've restarted my Xbox once, and now I'm just seeing if patience will do it but as the 5 minute mark flies on by I am tempted to restart my Xbox yet again.
However, while staring intensely at Red Dead Redemption's load screen I noticed how much I hate it. It consists of flashing images in black and red while a revolver gets reloaded, yet when the revolver gets fully reloaded that does not mean the end of the load time, instead it just begins anew. What is the point? Is it to distract gamers like me for a full 5 seconds hoping that when it gets fully reloaded the loading will be done and I can go on and play the game only to find bitter dissapointment?
 
So this lead me to think about what I would like in a load time, and of course ideally it would be no load time and if there is one as short as possible. Some games load missions while you're watching a cut-scene and others load while you are playing, as I just woke up, I can't really think up of examples at this moment but Splinter Cell: Conviction comes to mind even though the load scenes were incredibly long at some points you only got a few. Although, if there has to be a load screen I don't want to see a cycle of flashing images, I really don't care about that, all I need is something that symbols the amount of loading the game has done, let it be numbers, or an animation like Red Dead Redemption's reloading only if when all the bullets are put into the revolver that would mean the end of the load and the beginning of me having fun.
 
So what do you think? What are games that have done loading really well? What would be your ideal load screen other than there being none?
 
After looking up to the television screen and the load screen being the only thing visible, I guess it's time to restart my Xbox again...

24 Comments

Battlereport! We need your Help! (Long Post)

                                    (ATTENTION: LONG POST AHEAD. If you want to skip the boring part, just scroll down until you see Bold Text again.)

Sorry if you can't see, I'm the one that's black and gold in the world map


























      
       Hello, my Kaiser, welcome to your daily briefing of the coming and goings of the Empire. As you must know, the Holy Roman Empire is strong, and is the leading force in the entire globe. Everyone fears our military might, our vaults are endless, our population is vast, and we trade with everyone in the known world. We have just finished our glorious crusade against the nasty Fatamids, (Yellow on the map) beating them back into the nasty deserts of the Arabian peninsula. Our two greatest armies were present, the Emperor's 1st Legion and the 2nd, comprising of our greatest, and most hardened units. The political situation in the Middle East is tense, the Fatamids can strike again any second, but do not fear, our garrison is strong in the Holy Land, the Turks (Green) are still bitter from our last feud, and the Byzantines (Purple) are ever looking at fresh opportunities to expand. Pushing against the Fatamids will be easy, as our armies are already positioned in the vicinity, but there remaining regions are underdeveloped, and if we continue the conquest, we will only waste money. Push against the Turks and we push towards modern day Iraq, this seems logical, as Baghdad is a glorious city, however The Mongols are ever near, and the Turks are acting as a beautiful barrier between us ad them. Finally, the Byzantines seem a logical to attack, however our supply lines would be thin, and the Emperor's 1st and 2nd legions would have to be on their own for quite a while before receiving reinforcements. What to do Kaiser? We look up unto you, for only your greatness knows.
Everyone fears the faceplates of our Gothic Knights.

       Europe is at peace, no wars are going on in our vicinity. Our noble allies the Scottish (Blue) remain on their isle, which states the same for the Irish (Green). Aragon (Goldish-Brown) continues to develop at peace with us, as they celebrate our friendship on the Iberian Peninsula when we helped to defeat the vile Portuguese. The Teutonic Order (Black and White Borders) control the entirety of the Balkans having destroyed the Hungarians and now battling the Byzantines. Attacking them has also come to mind, the Balkans are a breadbasket of money, which could all be ours, except the Teutons have been our noble ally for many years and attacking them would make the remaining Christian factions look down on us. Finally, Russia (Blue-Red), our final ally, is making great strides against the Cuman Khanate (Brown-Blue) who are being purged by the Mongols from the South. Attacking Russia has not come to mind, but doing so, would allow us to control the entire Baltic, and take the jewel that is St. Petersburg, a bountiful trade hub on the Baltic.

     The last option our generals have thought of is going through the Ukraine, and pushing through the Cuman Khanate's lands, this would take time, as the Steppes are large and take long trekks to journey through. The Cuman Khanate's technology is outdated, their units being barbarians with little armor. Our Gothic Knights would trample them under their shiny metal boots. This venture, would too, near us to the Mongols, which of whom have only heard nasty rumors. They are said to eat babies, and steal cookies mercilessly. So what are we to do my Kaiser? Continue attacking the Fatamids wiping their existence from this planet, making them one more page in history, or attack the Turks, the nomads are not worthy to be in the bountiful Euphrates-Tigris valley, annihilating them is the only pious thing to do. Should we attack the Byzantines? Controlling Anatolia would give us a major share in the Black Sea trade, and the Byzantines are only a shadow of their former selves, losing Constantinople to the Teutons and controlling an outdated military. We could venture into Russia, attacking the Russians themselves, or attacking the Cumans moving us ever closer to our encounter with the Mongols. You have our gold, our military, and our hopes and dreams. We are in your hands Kaiser.


(If you actually read that, you have my thanks, =), but if you scrolled down here just to get the debriefing of what the hell all that text was about I'm about to explain)

 Basically, if you didn't get it while reading, or just didn't want to read, I'm asking who should I attack in my Grand Campaign as the Holy Roman Empire. You can use the Global Map in the picture way above to tell me, or actually read the post if you want more details. Sadly, I don't think many will read that huge post... but if you do, thanks, and tell me your thoughts. (Sorry if there are a lot of grammar mistakes, and stuff like that.)

Oh and the mod I'm playing in, if there any Medieval II Total War fanatics like I, is Stainless Steel 6.1, an awesome mod, adding factions, units, and regions.
Here is the site.

Cheers. =D

6 Comments

Achievements and How to do them Right

I was thinking the other day, on why I was so satisfied with Call of Duty 4's achievements. The game seemed to have the proper balance of story achievements, mixed with "beat on veteran" achievements, and a few optional achievements. Most importantly, it lacked online achievements. I am a firm believer that achievements should stay offline. Partly, because if you lack xbox live, then you can not 100% the game. Secondly, you already feel rewarded online, due to the prestige system.

I am pretty sure, the ranks you accomplish in most online multiplayer games are enough. I mean, if you go around bragging about your Mile High Club achievement

All the achievement you need.
, you also probably would brag about how your 10th prestige. This is why Call of Duty wins. In a way, that small little prestige symbol at the edge of your gamertag, every time you play online is an achievement on its own. I mean sure, you may get a sense of achievement when you beat a mission, but that sense is only bolstered by the message, "achievement unlocked." While, online I have always felt that every time I go prestige, it's an achievement on its own, and I would gladly brag about being 10th prestige (if I was) to any other Call of Duty 4 player. This is how I believe achievements should be done in a FPS with an online and offline mode. Gears of War had a lot more online achievements than Gears of War 2, of course Gears of War 2, at launch, had a very lame online ranking system...

Another game, which is only singleplayer, which I believe did something pretty original with achievements is Mass Effect. Yes, it had those lame "carry around Liara for the majority of the game" achievements but what I liked about it, is the fact you actually received something from achieving X amount of kills with X skill. This allowed you the chance to replay the games with an extra power, that is not associated with that class type. For example, there was an achievement for using Biotic Singularity 75 times, after this I played through with a soldier class that also could use Biotic Singularity which made my insane run through quite the bit easier.

So, in conclusion, I think these games have done achievements right, or atleast, brought something new to the achievement table.

On a last note: I beat Banjo-Tooie and now have 100% achievements in that game, and later went back finished all the puzzles in Banjo-Kazooie and now have 100% in that game.



9 Comments

The Lost and the Damned and my Renewed Faith in Rockstar.

       So I just finished the Lost and the Damned. Yes, simple as that, but I must say it was AWESOME. Which is quite a surprise because I could not stand to finish GTA IV because of the repetitive missions, and your annoying friends, it seemed that every time you were about to do something fun, Roman would call up and would state that you and him don't spend enough time together, and that you guys should go see some American titties. Of course I'd say no because I'm about to jump off a freakin' helicoper only  to get Packie to call me up and ask me the same thing. It soon became a vicious cycle, of course, just recently I realized there was a "turn notifications off" button which I was not aware of. So anyways, I picked up GTA again this weekend and finally finished it. Of course, this left me with nothing to do for the rest of the weekend, so because I know that Rockstar does have an apt for story telling, and I wanted to play something with excellent narrative I downloaded The Lost and the Damned.

       Once it finally finished downloading, I booted it up and I get welcomed to a similar loading screen as in GTA IV fast forward 7 hours (which is the time that it took me to beat the DLC) and I was pretty amazed at how much I enjoyed myself. Yes, the missions were still a tad repetetive but there is a greater variety to the missions or the standard "get away from the cops" mission had been taken up a notch, like in that mission where you ride with your homie Malc and try to get away from the cops via shooting down dozens of police cars, or dropping the occasional pipe bomb on even more police cars. Also, my other gripes with GTA IV was the punishing checkpoint system and the whole "go play bowling with your friends or else they will hate you" thing. This time, I dont quite recall as much punishment, however I may be wrong, and every time I would die, instead of making me drive all the way back it would place me right back into the combat. The annoying friend system also seemed to be fixed, not once did I get called by a friend asking me to go play pool with them, I didnt even get called by my annoying drug addicted ex which made the experience alot smoother. My last two praises for the DLC are the soundtrack and the story. The main theme just emphasized the point that the Lost are hardcore bad asses and every time you beat a mission you'd hear the excellent guitar riff which, in a sense, rewarded me. The story stands on its own, the tale of Johnny Klebitz (excuse the spelling) is beautiful in a twisted sort of way. You run through gang wars, doing a senator's dirty work, even a civil war erupts between your ranks, and all of this is explained beautifully. The other great part was how this story was interweaved with the GTA IV story, and the missions where you'd know what Niko would be doing just made me giddy with joy. The final mission was the cherry on top, it just touched me how Johnny burned the __________ (I don't want to give anything away).

       So, in conclusion, me being one of those people who truly didn't think GTA IV was supremely orgasmic, after playing The Lost and the Damned and seeing how Rockstar is, atleast, trying to fix their mistakes (checkpoint system, repetetive missions, annoying friends) and keeping their talent for telling awesome stories makes this one of the best DLC's I have ever purchased. And all in all, I do beleive Johnny is a badder bad baddier badass than Niko.





14 Comments

Conker's Bad Fur Day

Funniest game of all time!
So many laughs and probably some of the best voice acting ever.
Who could forget the King of Poo's opera solo.
I still remember it today, and I occasionally whack out my N64 just to play that game.

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