Gamifying the world of marketing

Game design could unlock the next evolution in advertising: The immersion economy, said one Advertising Week panel.

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

NEW YORK: For a glimpse into one possible future of advertising, look no further than gaming, said participants on an Advertising Week panel on Tuesday called "Could the Future of Advertising Be Inspired by Game Design?"

In this future, brands would create worlds for consumers to explore, complete with rules and objectives, just like a game. That’s a potentially "uncomfortable" idea, said Sarah Stringer, SVP and head of innovation at Carat U.S.A.

"What you should expect to see in the future is you’ll need to have worlds built around brands so people can participate in it in the way they want to," she said. "They can build a relationship on their terms, not on yours."

Julie Babb, cofounder and MD of Part and Sum, invoked a concept in game design called "the magic circle" to describe the modern brand experience. The term describes the rules and reality of a game in which all players agree on a certain thing. For example, if a player in Dungeons & Dragons declares they’re a wizard, everyone agrees to believe that.

That principle illustrates the degree to which brands can immerse consumers in whatever worlds they create, panelists said. "If a brand can do that, that’s a good indicator [that] they’re building a meaningful experience for their customers [and] they’d be described as authentic," Babb said.

This idea could set off a shift in marketing and advertising, transitioning the industry from an "attention economy" to an "immersion economy," added Nathan Phillips, chief creative officer and cofounder of Technology, Humans and Taste.

"The most important thing for a video to be good is the first four seconds have to be exciting," he said. "That is insane."

An immersive experience by nature operates by a different dynamic: it’s about the journey, not the first four seconds. It forces players to make choices. And players show whoever creates the experience what they like. 

However, there is a knowledge gap that needs to be filled. Epic Games wants to meet that need. Epic is the developer behind the Unreal Engine, its core product, and Fortnite, a massively popular game that’s been credited with pioneering a new age in marketing and gaming.

Beyond consumer gaming, it also has an enterprise business, selling Unreal to companies working in sectors such as architecture, auto manufacturing and advertising.

Epic is partnering with universities to fill the talent pipeline by educating them on things like game design, according to Heiko Wenczel, head of the company’s Detroit Lab. "We’re very focused on making that possible so the advertising industry can jump into this," Wenczel said.

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