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TV a Winner for New Game

Oct 25, 2006  •  Post A Comment

While some advertisers fret that video games are taking young viewers away from television commercials, at least one video game marketer says television is still the best way to reach kids.
These days, of course, networks package online interactive elements with their television spots. That combination is particularly useful to demonstrate the features of a new videogame.
LucasArts plans to launch its new game, “Thrillville,” on Nov. 21.
“‘Thrillville’ is a game that is really like playing and experiencing a theme park,” said Nancy MacIntyre, VP of global sales and market at LucasArts. “You can essentially build the theme park of your dreams. You can build all the rides. You can ride all the rides. You can create all the minigames like you would see on a midway at a theme park. You can walk around in the park and talk to all the guests and socialize with them and find out what they’re thinking. So it really combines all the fun of going to a theme park.”
While the game can be enjoyed by the whole family, LucasArts is aiming its marketing primarily at kids 8 to 12. “We went out and explored what are the best ways to reach kids, and obviously TV advertising is the best,” Ms. MacIntyre said.
Ms. MacIntyre declined to disclose specific budget figures, but video game launches are big deals, with spending topping $10 million for an important title. LucasArts had enough marketing money to make deals with both of the top kids networks-Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.
“At the end of the day you can get the broadest possible audience of kids by TV advertising, and between Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network you can reach most of your kids audience between 6 and 12,” she said.
Also attractive is the fact that both networks offer multiplatform marketing packages.
“Five years ago it would have been primarily television and possibly a little bit of print. But you really wouldn’t have had the ability to do the 360 promotion,” Ms. MacIntyre said.
As opposed to relying on a 30-second spot to deliver a message, “The online component really gives us the ability to have kids engage with the product and get all the product information that they want, as well as be entertained with the product for much longer than the 30 seconds that you’d get off the TV spot. So it’s a major improvement,” she said.
On Cartoon Network, LucasArts is linking “Thrillville” with the launch of the network’s highly touted new series “Class of 3000.” The show was created and produced by Andre “3000” Benjamin of Outkast fame. It’s about a music star who quits performing to teach music students in Atlanta.
Cartoon Network usually reaches a broad swath of boys, the primary consumers of videogames. But “Class of 3000” is appropriate for both boys and girls, Ms. MacIntyre said. “With its music theme and having the star power of Andre 3000, we looked at that and we thought that was a really nice brand fit in terms of the entertainment experience.”
On air promo spots also connect “Thrillville” to the show and direct viewers to Cartoonnetwork.com. Online, LucasArts is sponsoring a “Class of 3000” game that Cartoon Network is using to promote the launch of the show. Sneak peeks of “Class of 3000” on the Cartoon Network’s broadband player are also sponsored by “Thrillville.”
The game is also featured on “Class of 3000” podcasts available both on the network’s site and iTunes.
Once the show launches, “Thrillville” spots are designed to drive viewers to Cartoonnework.com, where a minisite links with LucasArts’ own “Thrillville” site. There, kids can check out video, customizable park features and examples of how players socialize during the game. “It’s basically how to give kids an interactive experience with the game before they even get the game,” Ms. MacIntyre said.
“Thrillville’s” package with Nickelodeon also has many interactive elements, but instead of tying in with one of the network’s brands, a custom promotion, called “Put your mark on the park,” is being created. Sean Flynn, star of Nick’s “Zoey 101,” is appearing in the “Thrillville” promos.
“We will be running TV, online and print surrounding this promotion,” Ms. MacIntyre said. “The idea is we’re using TV to drive kids to Nick.com, where we have created a ‘Thrillville’ minisite and within the ‘Thrillville’ minisite, we’re running the promotion.”
With “Put your mark on the park” kids can create their own park online and send it as a video file to other kids. “It has a lot of the elements of the actual game in terms of customizing and experiencing a theme park, and then they can turn around and share it with their friends,” she said.
The Nickelodeon package also includes a video download from TurboNick, the channel’s broadband site, and a print ad in Nickelodeon magazine.
In the past, a campaign for a game like this would have been almost entirely in TV. Now, Ms. MacIntyre estimates, about 20 percent of spending is online. Both networks seem to be fine with that. “We found them to be really phenomenal working with them on custom promotion,” Ms. MacIntyre said.
In addition to the kids networks, LucasArts is buying some time on networks such as MTV to reach tweens.
To reach gamers, the company is going to online gamer sites such as IGN and Gamespot. “That advertising is geared toward people who are looking specifically for game information,” Ms. MacIntyre said.
While kids will be able to experience much of the game online, they won’t be able to buy it there. “We’re driving kids to demand it for Christmas or to buy it with their gift card money,” she said.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

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