Advergaming: You Got It

Burger King teams up with X-Box to release three games featuring its own advertising icons

If you've watched TV in the past couple of years, you know one fact: The King is frightening. Now, that isn't a negative point at all. To the contrary, Burger King's royal mascot has quickly become a part of culture, mostly due to the Internet. People talk about him, joke about the ads; this is the sort of viral advertising that money can't buy.

Another equally successful ad campaign for Burger King was Subservient Chicken. A webpage that allowed the user to enter suggestions that would then be acted out by a man in a chicken suit, it had all the makings of a waste college and/or work day. Again, it worked virally and people enjoyed it.

Now Burger King is releasing three Xbox games based upon those commercial properties. Pocketbike Racer, Big Bumpin' and Sneak King cover a variety of casual game categories and will all retail for less than $5. We talked to Adrienne Hayes, Burger King spokesperson, about why Xbox and Burger King is such a good fit.

The King = Scare-normous!

While Burger King has been on the leading edge of marketing with things like the Subservient Chicken and a website where Darth Vader read your mind, they haven't been falling behind in the in-game ad sphere either. Even before these recently announced Xbox titles, the company launched an extensive campaign with EA Sports' Fight Night Round 3. The game featured extensive Burger King in-game ads, including The King as a trainer/sparring partner.

That addition, however, hasn't gone over quite as well as some of their other efforts. Some have remarked that the fast food company's sponsorship of a boxing game wasn't a natural mesh. Others have said the advertising was simply too obvious and annoying. Sarah McIlroy of Midway ragged on it in a recent Ad Watch focusing on the future of in-game ads. "We really haven't done anything as crazy as Burger King in Fight Night," she said. "We try to be more realistic."

Hayes was unsurprisingly upbeat about the Fight Night connection. "We did receive a positive response to our brand integration in Fight Night and other top-selling video game franchises, but the partnership with Xbox and the development of these games is really about Burger King's desire to take brand integration to the next level and create engaging and relevant long-format consumer entertainment," she said.

Before you die, you see THE KING

The release of these Burger King themed games struck some as being an unusual choice. The games appear to be targeting children and some theorized that Nintendo's platform might be a better choice. Still others pointed to the PS2 and its broad appeal, feeling that would be a superior choice to the Xbox and Xbox 360 combined. Still, Hayes asserted this was a perfect match, "because, like Burger King, Xbox is a challenger brand that wants to change the status quo and push the limits of what can be accomplished in the marketplace. Both brands take risks and strive to be the best in their respective fields. We also have very similar core target audiences or heavy users."

"Burger King had a conceptual desire to create a custom gaming experience for its consumers and after meeting with Xbox this idea quickly evolved," explained Hayes. "In the end, both companies shared the creative spark associated with developing and delivering a unique consumer entertainment experience."

"Burger King strives to reach consumers in unique and non-traditional ways," she continued. "This particular initiative is in response to consumers' growing interest and involvement in video games as entertainment and showcases Burger King's commitment to taking brand integration to a new level. It's also a great value for the money, which is a consistent theme with all of Burger King's products and promotions."

Wake up screaming with the King

While the term "advergame" has only existed for a short while, advergames as a concept is not entirely new. They go back at least as far as Kool-Aid Man on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. Other such games include Yo, Noid!, two games based upon the 7-UP Cool Spot and another two games based upon Chester Cheetah, among others.

The most common use and application of advergames nowadays relates to mobile and casual titles. These games are often free, supported by the cost of their advertising nature. Still, Hayes asserted that advergame was an inadequate description for what Burger King was doing.

"This is not an advergame - it goes way above and beyond that - and we are excited to bring something so unique to our restaurant guests. We're confident that people will be impressed by the Xbox and Xbox 360 game quality and Xbox Live compatibility at this exceptional price point," she finished.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.