Three Lessons For Building a Killer Ad Game by@max-albert

Three Lessons For Building a Killer Ad Game

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Max Albert

a programmer from the midwest

Wake up folks, video games aren’t a niche market anymore. Over half of all U.S. adults game on at least one platform. That’s 65% of Americans who would just as likely choose a game on a free evening as they would a movie. The gaming industry is expected to become a 200 billion dollars by 2023.

The straight and narrow is that your customers play video games. Whether they’re selling clothes, burritos, or mortgages, the companies that harness the power of game advertising (dubbed Gamevertising) will win out.

Ralph Lauren: A Lesson In Brand Affinity


It’s important to remember games are not always violent like Call of Duty or complex like League of Legends. Like any entertainment genre, games span a wide variety of styles and interests. In fact, even older adults who are normally counted out of the market can enjoy a game if it’s simple and family-friendly! In fact, 42% of all gamers are over the age of 35.

Take Ralph Lauren’s hit Gamevetisement: Holiday Run. This game isn’t designed to make money itself — I’d argue it doesn’t even do a great job at emphasizing its call to action (buying Ralph Lauren). The magic here is how it showcases to the user the ethos of the Ralph Lauren brand.

Elegant, charming graphics; Cute holiday bells that explode with stars when picked up; majestic classical music in the background. This game shows that Ralph Lauren is worldly, sophisticated, and filled with holiday cheer.

The take-a-way: Holiday Run has three things that every great Gamevertisement should have:

  • Product Placement — The bear wears clothes from the latest Ralph Lauren collection.
  • CTA — There’s a call to action to buy the clothes from the game. Note that this could be improved by offering interesting rewards, or by offering power-ups in the game if the button is clicked. However, simply having a CTA is imperative to every Gamevertisement.
  • Sharing — There’s a share button that influences friends to share the game organically, allowing it to take on a life of its own.

The last bullet point cannot be overlooked as many marketers value organic traffic at a premium. 34% of consumers are more likely to make an unplanned purchase if a brand personalizes content. Having a friend share their leaderboard score and challenging you to beat it, could definitely motivate a friend to click the link!

Chipotle: Using Prizes To Maximize Organic Traffic


When Chipotle launched their game Race to Rewards in June of 2021, they added an intriguing twist: after 48 hours the player with the highest score could win a free Tesla car.

The goal of the game was simple: to sign up more users for Chipotle’s rewards program. They offered micro prizes in-game for players in the form of free loyalty points. At its peak, as many as 500,000+ played the game per day.

In the year the game came out, Chipotle increased their loyalty rewards members from 8 million to 23 million users. It’s impossible to say how many leads Chipotle received from the game alone, but compared to other years, there’s no doubt the game played a key role in their marketing strategy.

Key Takeaway: Chipotle’s game was a non-aggressive lead generation tool. Rather than “yelling” at your potential customers through YouTube, Google, or Instagram ads, Chipotle organically enticed customers to play their game and sign up for their rewards program.

Mortgage Hero: Games Are Educational Tools


This game for Mortgage Hero aims to solve a particularly interesting problem. How do you turn a mundane product like mortgages into something cool and pleasurable?

Mortgage Hero’s hallmark product is financing mortgages for first-time homeowners — particularly millennials. When first-time homeowners seek out a mortgage, they’re often frustrated with the amount of work it takes to obtain one. They need bank statements, tax returns, and pay stubs. It’s a nightmare.

But what seems boring and insurmountable in real life can be gamified into something fun, encouraging, and educational. In the game, you collect each necessary item (tax return, pay stubs, etc.) in a fun scavenger hunt. It preps the potential customer on what’s to come and serves as a lead generator.

Games are great tools for teaching because they are hands-on. If you want the customer to understand your complex product or a complicated part of it, they may be more willing to spend their time and energy learning through a game than watching an ad.

Here’s my quick tip on making great educational games: make the point of contention the object of the game and then give the player points or rewards for interacting with it. In Mortgage Hero’s case, millennials are now attracted to finding, collecting, and learning about mortgage items.

Voila, what was once a confusion in your lead generation pipeline is now a colorful, fun, challenge that attracts new customers.

In the end, games aren’t just for pleasure. They can also be powerful advertising tools. If you’re a company that wants to develop a strong brand affinity, develop new leads, or educate your customers then a video game may be perfect for you!


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