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D.I.C.E.: Ubisoft's Jay Cohen On In-Game Ads

At the 2007 D.I.C.E. Summit convention, Ubisoft vice president of U.S. publishing Jay Cohen gave the first of a rapid three-tier speech on risk, entitled, “Ad Nauseum or Ad-ding Value?” highlighting Ubisoft’s approach to, and overwhelming support for, in-

Frank Cifaldi, Contributor

February 8, 2007

3 Min Read

At the 2007 D.I.C.E. Summit convention, Ubisoft vice president of U.S. publishing Jay Cohen gave the first of a rapid three-tier speech on risk, which discussed Ubisoft’s approach to in-game ads, in a talk entitled, “Ad Nauseum or Ad-ding Value?” “The key messages that I want to drive home today are that in-game ads are going to make you rich, they’re going to make you famous, and they’re going to make you better, and I’m going to explain to you how I feel that will happen,” Cohen opened. Current film ad placements in United States, he explained, are approximately $1.5 billion a year. James Bond films, he said, make upwards of $70 million in ad revenue before the movies even hit theaters. “They’re already making royalties,” he said. “It’s a nice concept to have your product paid for entirely before it even comes out.” “Our time has come. We are en vogue. We’re an attractive new medium for advertisers. The folks out there in brand marketing and product marketing looking to get their messages out are like us. They are our peers. They’re buying our games. There is a generational shift within those companies, and we need to realize that.” “We need to look at [this potential],” Cohen said. “If we’re not looking at it, especially with the rising costs we have today, we’re not being as responsible as we can be. How do you do it? You need to designate an owner, someone on the team, to consider implementation in the design process. Put together a plan, something that can be pitchable during pre-production, whether its with you’re publisher or going out to the community.” He also suggested that advertisers will keep a vested interest in the development of their investment, saying, "they’re not just saying, ‘here, find a way within your product to put my brand in, see you later.’ No, they’re going to get multi-dimensional and support their investment." Cohen specifically pointed toward one of Ubisoft's own games, which has previously worked with in-game ad firms including the now Microsoft-owned Massive, in which Chrysler's support for Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter included the auto manufacturer providing cars as contest prizes, after its products were rendered in-game. The typical goal with advertisements, said Cohen, was simply to generate buzz for your game. Instead, Cohen offered, "I’m suggesting a better goal. Generate buzz for and around your game, using this multi-dimensional approach. This approach involves gameplay, technology, game makers, and ad elements. Ad elements can be a legitimate aspect as well." "I’m going to use an example close to home," said Cohen, "In Rainbow Six Vegas, we put an easter egg in the game that was basically an in-game ad for Axe." After its launch, he said, it got coverage on Yahoo, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, with the media talking about Fortune 500 companies and what they’re doing. Specialist media, too, such as Kotaku and GameSpot both "appreciated it," Cohen claimed, and the general gamer community, "talked about it, it got them to play the game. And as we all know, gamers are getting their information from word of mouth. That’s where they get the information they use to buy." "In-game advertising will help you make 95% rated games," jokingly posited, adding, "I’m stretching it on that one. My point being, I want to discuss the dynamic side of advertising for a moment." "We all know what in-game dynamic advertising is. There is a legitimate hidden secondary benefit," said Cohen. Rather than focusing on post-launch benefits of advertising -- simple tallies of how many impressions ads got or how much money was made, instead, "Put it in your game earlier, and track it. We can see the zones, put dummy textures up. Track it, and you can see in your environment what’s going on." "We’re the only ones holding this back," he concluded, "Advertisers want in, we know they want in, we just need to think about it. And if we do, I know with the level of brilliance and talent in all the teams out there, it can be easily accomplished."

About the Author(s)

Frank Cifaldi


Frank Cifaldi is a freelance writer and contributing news editor at Gamasutra. His past credentials include being senior editor at 1UP.com, editorial director and community manager for Turner Broadcasting's GameTap games-on-demand service, and a contributing author to publications that include Edge, Wired, Nintendo Official Magazine UK and GamesIndustry.biz, among others. He can be reached at [email protected].

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