DoubleFusion’s technology enables ad placements in video games to be revised even after the player has purchased the game.There you are, commandeering a souped-up bright green Volkswagen Jetta, navigating through urban obstacles, tight race tracks and narrow bridges as your car’s virtual sound system blasts your favorite soundtrack over the realistic sound of your engine revving and your gears shifting.
Even though it’s a video game, it feels like real life. Along the many images that fly past your screen, you pass a Starbucks store advertising a special on moccachino, whiz by a billboard advertising Ocean 12, and drive past a display of Castro motor oil.
The next day, you go into the same game, drive over the same routes, but Starbucks is advertising a double espresso sale, the movie is now showcasing The Incredibles and the motor oil showcase has been transformed into a Goodyear tire display.
Welcome to the futuristic technology of DoubleFusion, an Israeli company which is about to revolutionize video game advertising with its rich media technology. The young startup has developed a client-server technology that allows game publishers the ability to tap into the mature market of advertising and brand promotion.
DoubleFusion is using similar concepts from the on-line advertising market and combining them with video games. With their rich media software, games become a lucrative and dynamically changing media for product placements and ads. These products and ads can be remotely updated and personally targeted from a central ads server.
Visiting the DoubleFusion office in a Jerusalem high tech park recalls the energetic feeling of an early 90s dot.com. The company’s handful of staff are young, male, and immersed in their workstations. The décor is late era college dorm – with posters of John Belushi as Bluto in Animal House and Yoda from Star Wars driving the motif.
But it’s here that the one year old company has developed the technology that could soon make heads turn in the video game and advertising industry. According to Guy Bendov, DoubleFusion’s co-founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development, the time is ripe for an advertising revolution.
“When we started to think about core ideas, we felt that although the idea of ad placement in games is not new, the concept of adapting the models of online advertising into games – dynamic media for advertising – is really perfect timing,” Bendov told ISRAEL21c.
“There’s a backwind and traction from a lot of different areas. Today the video game market in the US is $30b a year, and 70% of household in the US play games. It’s become a major entertainment medium, and Nielson is backing this up. They show that 70% of the young adult market are not watching TV, and going to the computer or game console to entertain themselves.”
“The average gamer is typically male, and in his late 20s – basically all those geeks like us,” he said, sweeping his arm across the room, ” who spent all day playing Atari when they were teenagers.”
Now that they’ve grown up, video games are still a relevant entertainment media for them, explained Bendov, and advertisers are looking for new ways to reach them.
“With games reaching so many people, and the cost of creating new games rising all the time – from $5 million to $10 million to $15 million dollars for a game, there is a strong demand from both sides in the food chain – to look at dynamic advertisements to create revenues for both the game publishers and the advertisers,” he said.
“Thanks to broadband penetration which has connected PC users to the world, it has all come together – the time is right for us.”
What DoubleFusion offers compared with the technology that exists today is like the difference between color and black & white TV. The current technology involves inserting brands into the game script during the writing stage and that’s how it stays. DoubleFusion’s software enables computer game publishers to leave space for ad placements. DoubleFusion can later insert ads adapted for the time and place where the game is played.
“We’re the first company to introduce rich media formats for in-game advertising.
Which means we are showing not only static billboards with logos , but we also support video, animation, music and actual 3-D products – all of which we can dynamically change and modify online, and replace with other objects or placeholders.”
The advertiser can monitor how many people are seeing their ads, and where they’re from, said Bendow, which enables them to custom tailor product placement.
“We know the instances of the game being played worldwide – and we can target only the people playing that game in the UK for instance, and push them a campaign which is targeted only for that audience,” said Bendov.
This is a boon for advertisers who don’t want to overshoot a target audience by appearing in a game whose players aren’t interested in the product.
“Today, advertisers have to bet on the success of one game. A game publisher comes to an advertiser and says, ‘I have a cool game coming out in a year’, and the advertiser has to gamble that the game is going to be popular,” said Bendov. “In addition, the game is going to reach worldwide distribution – in Japan, North America, Europe – so the only companies that are able to advertise are global ones, like Nokia, Nike and Mcdonalds. They’re the only ones who can afford it.”
“What we’ve created is the technology and the service that enables an advertiser to easily locate games media, and then very effectively create campaigns that would be geared to one or more games – even after the games are already out in the market,” said Bendov. “The advertiser will know already if the game is successful or not, and we get accurate feedback on the actual exposure the campaign had and can then modify campaigns online.”
Bendov, who has founded a number of interactive media companies, is the business brains behind the company, while the technological muscle belongs to Dr. Hillel Rom, a 3-D technology expert whom Bendov dubs “the Professor.” Together, last year they closed first seed investment with venture capital company JVP Studio.
“JVP has been very understanding of the potential here and helpful in aiding us to consolidate our model,” said Bendov.
While the company is a year old, their technology has only been developed in the last six months, a time span Bendov is proud of.
“We’re already signing agreements with game publishers and getting advertisers interested. We hope by the second quarter of this year to be up and running in the market,” he said.
Demonstrating the technology in action, the DoubleFusion executive reverts back to his Atari youth, as he enthusiastically navigates through a game, adding comments on the way.
“Unlike movie product placement which is static – you’ll always see the same product during the same scene, no matter how often you watch the movie, we add the capability online to change the product in a relevant way to the player.”
He added that even the background music is a placeholder – a shell which can be changed. Record companies flogging their latest releases can place snippets of the latest Maroon 5 hit, and the next week switch it to Usher.
The company is very careful to create a realistic environment for their ad placements – one that isn’t jarring or inappropriate.
“Obviously, these ads aren’t going to be placed in fantasy games taking place in the future or in medieval times, but for sports games, and games within an urban environment, it’s totally relevant,” said Bendov.
Summing up the appeal of DoubleFusion’s new technology, Bendov calls it an innovative way to reach a target market who aren’t being reached.
“We have a media, a full rich experience – almost a real life experience of the game imitating the real world. And just like the real world, you have the placement of ads, billboards and banners, which as long its in context of the game and the player, works great because it enhances the enjoyment of the game.”
And then Bendov turns back to the screen, and races right through a billboard.