Ayzenberg Group is a well known name among video game marketing circles. They've worked for a large group of companies, including Sony Online Entertainment, Ubisoft, and Midway while handling properties such as EverQuest II, Prince of Persia and Blitz. They market titles using strategies such as branding, creative and print as part of the "360 degree integrated marketing" philosophy Ayzenberg holds.
However, the company has recently started to branch out into new marketing fields. In particular, they've focused upon peer-to-peer advertising, a new sort of web based viral advertising. More dynamic than web banners, these websites allow users to interact and spread the word along all on their own.
We caught up with Eric Ayzenberg, CEO and Executive Creative Director of Ayzenberg Group, and chatted about this new way to propagate an advertising message.
You talkin' to me, man?
If there was ever a title made for peer-to-peer advertising, it's Scarface: The World Is Yours. The main character, Tony Montana, is a cultural phenomenon who is helping drive the success of a new viral initiative created by Ayzenberg for Sierra Entertainment. Available at scarface.varitalk.com and from the website for Scarface: The World Is Yours, the online application lets users send personalized messages from Tony to their friends. You can even hear a preview of your message before sending, a feature so entertaining that it may have distracted certain GameDaily BIZ employees during regular work hours.
"The inspiration for this project was Tony Montana himself. The whole reason this entire thing works is because of his voice, his persona," said Ayzenberg. "Andre Sogliuzzo [the voice of Tony Montana for the game] was great. He delivered hundreds of different lines and it took an entire day to record."
Asked how the success of the campaign is being judged, Ayzenberg explains, "We rate the effectiveness based on the number of interactions - how many phone calls and emails have been sent. At the end of the day, we rate it in numbers, and we look at the logs daily to see how well it's doing."
"The point of this site is to get both the users and their friends excited about the game," he adds. "We can't share exactly how well this Scarface: The World Is Yours thing has been doing; let's just say it's doing crazy numbers."
You can ride my flying mount any time
Ayzenberg's online peer-to-peer projects don't begin or end with Scarface: The World Is Yours. In fact, the company has already done similar efforts, including a "Guild Mail" site for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. The site, which allows users to dress their chosen warrior in a variety of costumes and send messages to friends about "taking a ride on your flying mount," is entertaining beyond words.
"Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is the sort of game that all MMO fans will probably be interested in," says Ayzenberg. "The game will be out in early 2007 and this site is a great way to get the fans buzzing. The 'Guild Mail' feature definitely expands interest beyond normal MMO fans, but I think it features the sort of humor MMO players, as a group, are really into. You can even record your own voice if you want to go beyond the pre-recorded voices."
The Internet: Serious Business
These sorts of web pages, with interactive user created content created virally, are part of the next generation of web ads. Users are very savvy when it comes to regular ads, and most web banners, no matter how much they may move, roll over and make noise, may not make much impact. But these sorts of campaigns can potentially get the word out more successfully and with less effort, giving the users something to toy with while still holding up an advertising message—not that dissimilar from advergames actually.
And while Ayzenberg can't give out direct figures on the efficacy of its peer-to-peer advertising efforts, the fact that the agency has already been signed for several more campaigns on this type should be a good indication of how successful it's been.
"Our agency is in the midst of several similar campaigns that have launched in Q4 of this year, including projects with Konami, THQ, Nexon, BVG, and Warner Brothers," explained Ayzenberg. "We no longer rely solely on standard flash banner ads in our online campaigns. There is a growing shift over to rich-media advertising that encompasses all aspects of peer-to-peer marketing. In fact, as a marketer you cannot afford to do a campaign that excludes this element. It's all about delivering brand benefits that have reciprocal triggers for our clients."