Ads in video games can have a major influence on whether people buy products and recommend them to friends, a new study by Nielsen Entertainment concludes.
Nielsen has been studying advertising in games for more than a year in a joint project with game publisher Activision Inc.
Previous studies have shown that static ads in games, such as a billboard or blimp, or integrated advertising, such as a car a player must drive, can improve awareness of a brand in the same way as a 30-second TV spot.
But a new study released Monday shows that when ads are on screen long enough and are highly integrated in the game, they can make players feel more positive about a product.
"There's a whole new variable here," Nielsen Senior Vice President Michael Dowling said about the persuasive aspect of in-game advertising.
Game publishers have been trying to find a standard measurement of awareness so they can charge in the same way that television and other advertising is sold.
"Here is this medium that has more consumption by males 18-34 than television today," said Robert A. Kotick, chairman and chief executive of Activision, based in Santa Monica. "So if you just measure awareness, we can do better."
Nielsen's study included 1,350 male gamers between the ages of 13 and 44. The participants were split into four groups that played games with ads and two groups that played the same games without ads.
Three other groups watched TV shows, some with traditional ads, some with product placements and some with no advertising.
The study found that when ads were relevant to the game, the ads could remain on screen longer and resulted in a high percentage of brand awareness. Players surveyed after 20 minutes of game playing also said they would be highly likely to recommend an advertised product to a friend.
The study showed that products can make games more realistic. But ads done in a way the player interprets as inappropriate can also annoy.