In an unprecedented appeal for new voters from the Y-generation voting block, Barack Obama is forging new ground by tapping into an advertising medium that appeals to this demographic by the use of advertising on video games.
Obama is not knew to exploring new avenues. His presidential campaign has been characterized by a number of other commercial experiments. His social media popularity
, for example, far outweighs that of rival Sen. John McCain, in part because his campaign permits users to mash up his speeches and videos. He also launched a social network and is an avid participant on Twitter, in addition to organizing his own network on LinkedIn. In more recent efforts, he launched an iPhone app
that enables fans to better connect with each other.
This 21st Century strategy supports Obama’s underlying goal of reaching out to new voters- a powerful sector of the voting population, if it can be unlocked in this next election. Compared to McCain who openly admits to not knowing how to use a computer and describes himself a technological Neanderthal, this move clearly shows the significant divide between "Old vs. New School" presidential candidates.
McCain computer cartoon
Barack Obama's ads are now appearing in several sports video games, including the granddaddy of them all, Madden Football .
In total, Obama's video game ads are delivered to players in 18 games , ranging from "Guitar Hero 3" and "The Incredible Hulk" to sports titles like "NASCAR 09," "NBA Live 08" and "NFL Tour."
In the video game “Burnout Paradise,” when players drive through the fictional streets of Paradise, they will actually see something new on the virtual roadside: billboards for Barack Obama. The signage appears in the game just as a billboard would on a highway. The billboard features a picture of Obama and says, "Early voting has begun," and also points players to the candidate's website at voteforchange.com.
Barack Obama Billboard
While this game debuted in stores in early '08, the Obama ads were only recently inserted in October, 2008.
The idea of embedding advertising temporarily inside a video game is new, having only begun about 18 months ago, and Obama is the first presidential candidate to buy space, according to Holly Rockwood , a spokeswoman for Electronic Arts, Inc ., whose company is featuring the Obama ads in these games. Rockwood declined to say how much revenue the company generates from selling ad space in its games but indicated the company has struck past ad deals with Ford Motor Co. and Puma.
"There are many advantages for in-game advertising," Electronic Arts spokesperson Jeff Brown wrote me in an e-mail. "We're in close contact with a well-defined demographic -- young people (mostly males) aged 15 to 35. Our average customer is a 27-year-old male. And where television and radio use interstitials that interrupt the consumer experience for an advertisement, in-game advertising puts the promotion directly into the content. We stream the ads onto billboards that players see in cityscapes, a stadium, etc. They don't have to stop the action, to see the ad."
With even more precise sniper-shot ad focus, this type of advertising can be directed to particular geographical areas through the Internet Protocol addresses registered with Internet service providers when players' Xbox 360 consoles go online.
Obama’s ads will run until November 3, 2008 and this campaign is specifically targeted at 10 battleground states where early voting is available and relatively simple -- Only gamers playing online in these states can see the ads, which also appear as stadium signage in addition to billboards. (The ads are downloaded when gamers log on to the Xbox Internet service.) Not surprising, all of these 10 states are swing states. President Bush won all of those states in 2004, with the exclusion of Wisconsin.
The novel use of interactive media by Obama is further evidence of his substantial funding advantage over McCain, whose campaign is limited to the $84 million in public financing he agreed to accept. If nothing else, it shows Obama is a smart enough businessman to develop and execute new and innovative methods of getting his message out to the public. After all, isn't he running to be the next CEO of the US?
We'll see if enough of those 20-somethings get off their collective video-game-playing butts and actually go to the polls and vote!
What do you think of Obama's efforts to game the system?
[Editor Note: This was written by a fan of Obama.]