Mercedes drives its ads onto digital ground

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Mercedes drives its ads onto digital ground

When the carmaker BMW started putting product-placement ads in the online racing game Kart Rider last October, many people in the automobile industry thought it was crazy. For one thing, the game ― which is similar to Nintendo’s Mario Kart― doesn’t even feature real cars. People choose tiny one-person go-carts and maneuver through a two-dimensional cartoon animation track.
But after players of the racing game were allowed to choose BMW’s Mini as their “kart,” recognition of the newly-released model shot up ― and in a game that has more than 12 million players, BMW was able to expand its potential client pool.
For those who find this hard to believe, consider that the game’s player pool has both elementary school kids and office workers in their late 30s. The distributor of the game, Nexon, makes more than $5 million a month just from the sales of “cyber accessories” that players can use to decorate their carts and helmets.
BMW is in the pole position of companies conducting marketing through computer games. Previously, most of the companies that put promotional material in games were local brands that had a direct link to sales, such as coupons for fried chicken or discounts on rice balls.
Last month, Mercedes-Benz Korea placed its new compact sedan model C 230V in the online racing game XL1. Published by Neowiz and still in its third closed beta trial, the game differs from Kart Rider in that the graphics are three dimensional and players drive regular cars, not go-carts.
“We’re aiming at customers in their late 20s, and offering the model in a racing game can give it a mobile and dramatic image,” said Cho In-wook, a Mercedes-Benz Korea public relations representative. “The rendering of the car is very realistic, which we believe will help increase its recognition.”
While product placement is a common tactic in marketing, companies are also using games in various co-marketing campaigns as well.
NCsoft’s online role-playing game, Lineage, is conducting a joint marketing campaign with the potato chip maker Pringles, in which Lineage characters appear on the potato-chip cans. Both companies are reportedly happy with the results of the campaign: More Lineage gamers eat Pringles while playing the game, and the game gets an extra jolt of publicity by being displayed on supermarket shelves.

by Wohn Dong-hee
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