Ads in violent video games turn players against products

Posted by Kate Taylor

Embedding advertisements in violent video games has a totally counter-productive effect, putting users off products and lowering brand recall.

As a result, say researchers at The University of Texas at Austin,  advertisers should think twice about including such ads in a media campaign. Women in particular responded negatively.

"Although violent video games are very popular and can reach a young, highly engaged audience, their effectiveness as an advertising medium is questionable," says Jorge Peña, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies.

"Our study demonstrates that featured violence diminishes brand memory and primes more negative attitudes toward the brand."

Study participants played one of two video games with embedded advertisements. These were identical, except that in one game there were computer-operated avatars holding guns and shooting at the participant in virtual rooms drenched in blood.

In contrast, the non-violent video games featured the same avatars holding nothing and the virtual rooms were soaked in water.

After playing the game, participants were asked to recall some of the brands advertised and to say how they perceived those brands.

Brand recall and recognition, as well as positive attitude, were significantly lower for players of the violent video games.

The researchers believe that violent content in video games draws players' attention, diverting it from other sources of information and making it harder to process in-game ads.

Additionally, the violence leads players to subconsciously link negative attributes to in-game ads.

"Advertising campaign planners would do better to spend their budget on ads embedded in nonviolent video games than in ads placed within violent video games; particularly if they are trying to reach women," says Seung-Chul Yoo, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Advertising.

According to research firm eMarketer, US video game advertising spending is expected to reach $1 billion next year.