Gamification: it’s not just child’s play

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux's Transvision screens.

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux’s Transvision screens.

We learn to play before we walk or even before we talk. Games give us a thrill, not just due to the interaction involved, but also the reward at the end of them. Playing games, however, is not just for children: in advertising it is something that is proven to drive interaction.

Gamification is becoming increasingly used by brands as a tool to raise awareness and engage with customers at a deeper, more memorable level. One of the great enablers for gamification is digital technology, through computers, interactive screens and mobile.

“Game playing is a vital way that advanced animals learn and develop, and is therefore an inherent human behaviour,” believes Richard Simkins, Talon Outdoor’s innovations director. “Advertisers have found that ‘gamified’ content helps people to quickly learn about new products and to change their feelings towards established brands.”

Sam Bird, director of production and creative solutions at JCDecaux Innovate, agrees, saying that, with the growth of DOOH networks, games are just a natural progression for advertising: “Younger audiences are not afraid of screens; it is second nature to them. Yet older people, even if they just watch the games being played by others, can also become hooked.”

Obviously, brands are not just trying to give customers a good time: they want to learn about them and reach out to them with new offers. They want big data and gamification is one way of enabling this. As Bird points out: “We found that, when people are offered a reward at the end of an exchange, they are more than willing to part with personal information.”

MediaCo Outdoor’s new CityLive network in Manchester is a prime example of touchscreen technology mingling with everyday life, while offering a chance to play at the same time.

“The catalyst for this increase in brands using games to communicate is social media and sharing, particularly through mobile,” opines Richard Blackburn, commercial director at MediaCo. “Consumers do not want brands shouting in their faces; they want to engage with brands on their own terms. It is imperative for brands to weave their existence into the lives of consumers in ways that are positive, which add value to consumers’ lives and reward their involvement. Compelling and addictive games are a great way to broaden brand reach and make it memorable, therefore increasing brand loyalty.”

For a gamified campaign to succeed, location is key. Dan Dawson, director of creative and technology at Grand Visual, suggests: “Creating fun and participatory campaigns is a great way to incentivise people to connect with DOOH screens. It is particularly effective in locations where average dwell time is high, such as shopping centres, train stations and airports.”

Media owners keep investing in cutting edge technology, but who is driving gamification adoption in OOH? Brands have been using online games to capture people’s attention for quite a while, so taking it onto the streets and public spaces is just an extension of this. On the creative agency side, using games can tangibly surpass what has been done before and can provide companies with real information on how well the campaign is doing, justifying the initial investment.

“In our experience, creative and media agencies are the most enthusiastic about gamification strategies because they are typically exciting to develop and have been proven to deliver results,” believes Simkins. “In the context of OOH some of the most successful interactive campaigns have introduced an element of game playing – whether this is using interactive touch- or gesture-enabled digital screen in bus-shelters, games that turn your phone into a game controller for a huge public digital screen, or even a pure-play gamification platform like YourVine which creates out-of-home challenges for participants.”

In order to make the best out the game experience, a little help is sometimes advisable, suggests Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing at Talon: “We have found that when using emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) or gestural interactivity the presence of on-site brand ambassadors, who can explain the experience to customers, significantly helps to drive interactions and understanding. Gesture and AR technologies increase the functionality of an interactive experience and, amongst a core gaming audience, gesture technology meets the expectations of high performance.”

Gamification works for brands because it is a means by which they can connect with customers for longer and more meaningfully. Engagement hot spots are emerging in most metropolises and the technology is also widely available. What is now needed is more outstanding creative content that explores the possibilities of gamification across all platforms.

Making marketing more engaging: In-Store Show

If I had to define in a sentence what the In-Store Show pavilion at the Marketing Week Live event was about, I would say it mostly presented solutions to make marketing more engaging.

CDS 46" trasnparent display box and 4.3" TFT shelf edge displays

In terms of technology, it was very similar to what we already saw this year at Screenmedia Expo. Large thin-vessel HD displays, some LED, picture frame-type screens, a few holograms, 3D and transparent displays.

For instance, Crystal Display Systems (CDS) had already introduced its 22″ (0.6m) transparent showcase box at Screenmedia Expo. The ClearVue 220 allows the combination of a real product displayed in a presentation box and graphics or video content played in front on it, on a transparent display. However, what was new at this show was CDS’s 46″ (1.2m) box, also plug-and-play, but more impressive. Other companies showing transparent displays were Media Zest and Stratacache, with a large drinks dispenser fridge with a transparent screen.

Pixel Project QR code for 4.3″ shelf edge screen

Something that caught my eye in terms of screen technology was the use of 4.3″ (11cm) TFT LCD displays used for shelf-edge applications or as mini video displays for counter advertising – or even inside a card. The screen is more or less the size of a smartphone screen, but is lighter. The resolution in that size is very good and the screens can display individual or joined content. The only fault, especially if the screens are used next to each other, is that they have quite a thick frame so the image is not continuous.

The mini displays inside cards were designed by Display Innovations and have a video that is activated when the card is opened, and that can play for the battery’s life of three hours. Pixel Inspiration has combined its version of digital shelf-edge display with a QR code reader, so the screens play content continuously until a QR code is scanned, which triggers information on the product to pop up on the screen.

CDS was also demonstrating its shelf-edge display. “The displays work like a desktop extension,” explains managing director Chris Bartram. “You can decide what you put on each screen or run an image across several. It’s a PC interface so you can use any media player from signagelive, Scala or any other. The maximum number of TFT 4.3′ (1.3m) screens you can put in one line is eleven, but we can daisy-chain them to link together up to 72 displays.”

Christie MicrTiles at Saville AV stand

One particular product that was being showcased by many companies was Christie’s MicroTiles. The versatile cubic rear projection display was present in at least six different stands, and not just on the In-Store Show pavilion, but the Live Marketing area, which was for companies offering exhibition stands, as well. Equinox Design had the largest Christie MicroTiles display, a five by eight array. The show’s entrance hall had a MicroTiles display, as did system integrator Saville Audiovisual, distributor Aztec and content designer Beaver Group, to name but a few.

TED - H Squared

An innovative store concept which attracted crowds was the one presented by H Squared. Its name was TED, the happy machine. TED stands for Technology Engagement Device, and combined screens and mobile technology. Visitors were handed a card to fill in, or by scanning a QR code they were taken to a website. Here they were given a virtual scratch card to reveal whether they had won, and what time they needed to go to the stand to get their ‘free stuff’. TED was a videowall comprised of several screens with videos of eyes and mouths. At the time arranged for people to come and collect their prizes, TED came alive as an interactive screen, seeing the bystanders (via a webcam) and talking to them. Winners needed to open a small box to find their goodies.

IBM future store

But how can these solutions work together? The entrance of the In-Store Show had concept stands, showing what the future of retail can be. I must say I didn’t think much of these. IBM had created a ‘shoe shop fusion’, with screens on the shop window showing tweets and live models parading in the window as if it were a catwalk. The twist, and where IBM technology came in, was that the public tweeted what shoes they wanted to see modelled. IBM proposes using a multi-channel experience to engage customers at various levels and feedback to the retailer through its analytics.

The show covered all areas of marketing and communications, and was worth a visit.

First published in Output Magazine