Games now in play

Clever tools go beyond the Net's standard fare

Now that most Americans experience the Internet on a broadband connection, entertainment marketers have discovered new, surprising ways to leverage the bigger pipes.

In fact, using the latest media technologies and platforms, marketers are able to promote their brands beyond mere blogs and banner ads.

Paramount, for example, recently became the first studio client of a new kind of ad agency, Massive, which specializes in placing brands inside the virtual environments of online vidgames.

Last month, players of the popular games such as “Splinter Cell” could blast holes through billboards for Par’s “The Longest Yard.” Paramount also has advertised “Hustle & Flow” and “War of the Worlds” through Massive, which counts Coca-Cola, Honda and T-Mobile among its clients, too.

Outside its partnership with Massive, Paramount offered trailers of “Hustle & Flow” and “The Longest Yard” for the Sony PSP handheld game platform, and it teamed with Viacom sibling MTV to supply “Hustle & Flow” ringtones for mobile phone customers.

Paramount VP of interactive marketing Amy Powell says she embraces innovative marketing beyond the Net’s four walls.

“I’m lucky that Paramount works with emerging, creative filmmakers who understand that their core audience isn’t spending as much time with traditional media,” Powell says.

Broadband has revived entertainment advertising around instant messaging. Both AOL’s Expressions and Yahoo!’s IMVironment enable IM users to change their buddy lists and message windows to a themed environment around a program.

To promote “America’s Next Top Model,” for example, UPN used the video features on AOL Instant Messenger.

“Broadband users tend to be more active users of instant messaging than dial-up customers,” says Chamath Palihapitiya, VP and G.M. of AOL’s instant-messaging operations. “They send and receive more messages, stay on for longer periods of time and are more responsive to advertising.”

“We’re seeing an increase in the use of video, quizzes/polls and game play to drive interaction and build excitement,” adds Mitch Rose, VP of marketing for Web technology developerPointRoll.

For example, boxers eliminated from NBC’s “The Contender” were recently brought back to fight in three “fan favorite” bouts that were shown exclusively on Yahoo. More than 400,000 people voted online, and over 500,000 viewers watched the online finale.

“TV and online work best together when the online elements complement TV programming,” says Yahoo branded entertainment topper Jim Moloshok.

This spring, Dish Network, which has an industry-leading 10 million interactive TV-enabled homes, offered a 10-minute on-demand peak at Sony’s “XXX: State of the Union.” During commercials for the pic, viewers were shown a link to an on-demand show that included the first 10 minutes of the movie. Viewers also could use their remotes to obtain theater locations and show times.

While broadband has allowed marketers to better exploit the Internet in new ways, mobile content also has proved a useful tool.

Fox, which entered into an unprecedented partnership with Verizon Wireless last year to release short versions of “24” to mobile users, is crafting a 60-second “mobisode” version of “The Simple Life.”

Meanwhile, Disney also used Verizon’s Vcast service to launch the trailer for its upcoming holiday season release “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

“Mobile is an exciting new mass market, both to promote our shows and sell new content,” says Fox mobile media topper Lucy Hood.

(Gunjan Bagla writes for the interactive marketing resource iMedia Connection.)

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