I was reading a post from Amit Gupta on Neopets, an online virtual pet site, and thought, brilliant! I remember a few news cycles growing up that positioned cartoons as a vehicle to sell products in toy stores. They engage viewers in thirty to sixty minutes of story and ads leaving them visually stimulated about, presumably, toys they have or want.
Over the last few years there was increasingly more attention placed on the use of product placement. It can be subtle, a view at a café might have a soda can one table over, but unrelated to the stars in view. Alternatively it can be the car that a main character is driving – vastly different in impact. People often bring their own filter into the movies, immersing their reality into the world of fantasy. When the star has a fantastic home in Miami or an exotic Italian sports car, viewers are also imaging themselves with those things. Viewers are both relating to the characters and exploring how the story presented fits with their own. This level of involvement is entirely within the viewer and the more engaging the movie, the more the product placement moves from a series of brand impressions to a “click through” of virtual use.
Nothing is more effective than actually getting a consumer to try a product at home or in whatever context makes sense. Marketing efforts often send out samples of products to target audiences to see what people think of their new thing. Often the receivers of the product can evaluate their general like or dislike immediately, and while the answers to the accompanying survey are important, it is the fact that all the participants have first hand experience with a product the did not buy, but could. The product is no longer in a movie where viewers are passively watching, it is in their hands, in their world. There in lays the buzz machine.
Neopets delivers all of the above. The first level of advertising is the virtual pet game itself. Like what you see on screen? Well, there are booster packs, magazines, plushies, t-shirts, jewelry and more – all Neopet inspired and branded. Amit points out that advertising is embedded as sponsored characters and mini games, extending the brands of many to the experience in a virtual world. Finally, participants are not simply viewers. Participants are interacting and experiencing how their virtual pet intermingles with the virtual world. All of this makes Neopets a compelling interactive experience that is as sticky as they come.
Images used in this post are Copyright 2000-2005 Neopets, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.