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Get In the Game

Score marketing points with video game product placement.

Hip businesses can now shoot for sales in a new way. Says Michael Oxman, managing director of JAM International Partners Inc. in Chicago, a firm specializing in video game product placement, this growing segment may be a better choice for some businesses than film and TV placement. "You target the gaming audience in the same way you target through traditional media," he explains. "Look at the game [and] who plays it, and identify opportunities that make sense."

Hoby Buppert, creator of Bawls Guarana (www.bawls.com), the world's most caffeinated soft drink, believes this marketing venue has potential for some products but can be deadly for others that don't appeal to cynical, marketing-savvy gaming audiences. "If the product is out of place, there's no quicker way to turn them off," advises Buppert, 30. He also believes that just putting a passive logo within the game does little for your brand. Instead, he insists that his product be featured as an interactive part of the game. In one game, Bawls bottle caps are used as currency. In another, the product's vending machines dispense energy points. If you're not making the product part of the game, he says, you're wasting your money.

How much money? According to Oxman, that's a tricky question. Buppert's Miami Beach, Florida, company, Hobarama Inc., has bartered placements in exchange for promoting the game to his customers, which include a large concentration of gamers. That's not the norm, and Oxman estimates placement opportunities start at $25,000 and go as high as $700,000 or more, depending on interactivity and visibility.

If you think this venue has promise, Oxman says it's time to get in the game, either by picking the games and contacting the manufacturers yourself, or by going through product placement companies that can negotiate deals for you. Why the rush? "Like anything else," he says, "placing your product in video games is less expensive now than it will be in a year or two."

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the March 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Get In the Game.

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