Video games feature ads for Obama's campaign

October 14, 2008 12:39:25 PM PDT
oo busy playing video games to watch presidential ads on television? Barack Obama has found you, too, by becoming the first presidential candidate to buy ad space inside a game. Nine video games from Electronic Arts Inc., ranging from the extremely popular "Madden 09" football game to the street racing "Burnout: Paradise," feature in-game ads from the Obama campaign. The ads - they appear on billboards and other signage - remind players that early voting has begun and plug a campaign Web site.

The idea of embedding advertising temporarily inside a video game is relatively new, having only begun about 18 months ago, and Obama is the first presidential candidate to buy space, company officials said.

The Democrat's ads are aimed at gamers who like sports, including NASCAR, NBA, NHL and skateboarding, meaning EA Sports' motto, "It's in the game," now applies to presidential politics as well.

EA spokeswoman Holly Rockwood would not say how much the ads cost, but she said they are running on the Xbox Live versions of the game through Nov. 3. They began earlier this month.

The timing of the Obama ads within the video game varies from state to state. Players in smaller states may see the Obama ads for the whole month, while users in bigger states may see them for a shorter period.

"It reaches an audience that is typically hard to reach - young males, roughly 18 to 34," said Rockwood. "That's very appealing to our advertisers."

For those who still associate video games with clunky "Pac Man" or "Space Invaders" consoles, here's how in-game advertising works: The Xbox 360 console connects to the Internet, so it can be updated with new features, including ads. In the case of "Burnout," the game came out in stores in January, but the Obama ads were only inserted this month.

Rockwood declined to say how much revenue the company generates from selling ad space in its games.

"What we're trying to do is offer ads in games where we're simulating a real-world environment, so our racing games, our sports games lend themselves to that," she said.


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