Electronic Arts taking ad sales in-house

Major blow to still-nascent 'dynamic' in-game ad sector

Video game publishing giant Electronic Arts is planning to take its advertising sales in-house, meaning it will end its relationships with in-game ad companies Massive and IGA Worldwide this year.

The move represents a major blow to the still-nascent "dynamic" in-game ad sector, given the reach and cachet that EA commands as the world's largest game publisher. Microsoft-owned Massive and struggling IGA used marquee EA titles including "Madden NFL" football, "NBA Live" and "Need for Speed" as centerpieces of their ad-sales strategies.

Starting in the summer with the release of "Madden NFL 11," EA will handle its own dynamic ad sales, senior vp global media sales Elizabeth Harz said. The company has long worked with advertisers to bring product placements into games as they are published, like building specific car models into racing titles. But until recently, it has worked with outside vendors for placing ads in games as they are being played via Web connections, like virtual in-stadium billboards within sports games.

EA has taken pains to present itself to the ad community as the place to reach more gamers than any of its competitors. The company held its first upfront Tuesday in New York, featuring flashy video presentations, an open bar and a live band. The idea was to show off the company's breadth -- from sports games on consoles and female-skewed exercise titles to casual and mobile games -- rather than drilling down to specific ad opportunities.

"This was about education," Harz said. "There is so much for people to learn about our offerings."

She said combining advertising efforts would allow the company's sales teams to offer more elaborate, integrated packages to advertisers.

"Fundamentally, (EA sales executives) are talking about these gaming audiences every day already," Harz said.

That integration should make it easier for buyers. Just how much it affects in-game sellers remains to be seen.

"I love the idea of being able to talk to only one guy," said Greg March, digital group director at Wieden + Kennedy. "That's a logistical, procedural improvement that should help. EA should be able to sell deeply on every platform. What I don't know is how much of (Massive or IGA's) inventory is driven by EA Games."
comments powered by Disqus