I just read an interesting article by Kristina Knight at BizReport that talked about the gamification of several ad campaigns running on Yahoo!. For those not down with the lingo, gamification, is not a word I coined, but it is the utilization of gameplay mechanics in non-gaming projects. While I have seen it applied to everything from actual game development and project management (there’s even a Gamification Summit!) straight through to social network interaction (Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube all have gameplay elements), this is the first I’m seeing it in advertising.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There have always been marketing activities that have had game elements in them (giveaways, contests, etc), but this is more of making the ads more like game elements themselves and pulling the consumers right into them.

The two ad campaigns she cited are; the People Magazine Bello 51 (People magazine Bello 51Beautiful 51) which gives you a chance to be one of the top 51 most beautiful people, tying into its yearly edition, and the Dr. Pepper campaign, Hunt for the Unbelievable, which has you clicking to find imaginary creatures (who do exist we are told).

The first has an amazing amount of scantily clad mujeres, so props to People Magazine! As for the second, the ads aren’t targeted to my area so I’ll have to give you the paragraph Ms. Knight has in her article by way of explanation:

The second campaign, from Yahoo! and Diet Dr. Pepper, puts a more gamey spin on the ad landscape. Throughout the virtual treasure hunt, interested consumers are encouraged to find six Diet Dr. Pepper characters throughout Yahoo! properties such as Shine, Movies, Music and Games. Called “The Hunt for the Unbelievable”, it’s an extension of Diet Dr. Pepper’s “We Exist” campaign. They have to find a Leprechaun, Tooth Fairy, Sasquatch, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Alien.

So you’re telling me that none of those exist? I am totally not sold on Sasquatch, Santa Claus and Aliens not existing…

Really, the People Magazine one is nothing more than a contest with social networking built in (which is of course gamified already as I mentioned). The second has far more game mechanics in it through its hidden object, treasure hunt elements.

Gamification of Video Advertising

It’s only a matter of time before the online video industry picks up on this trend and gets a move on it. I have seen some services that allow for interaction with video. LeanIn (Hey Luke) lets viewers comment on videos, share what they’re watching, track what their friends are doing and certainly has a few competitive game mechanics in there (watch for my more in-depth look at them soon).

Another is Coincident TV (Hi Winter) which has a very intense interface and I could see it being used to create some sort of follow-your-own-path through our ads which would use a lot of elements of Zork (Open mailbox) and old school platform games (if you would like to talk with me more about my idea for that I would be happy to consult and write the game/ad script).Video ad gamification treasure map

Neither of the services mentioned is really positioning themselves as such, but they already have frameworks in place for them to easily start allowing clients to gamify video content for marketing and advertising purposes. Many video ads are already showing up in video games, so why not make the ads into games themselves to help raise brand awareness, increase interaction and engagement. Give them social network hooks where people can report their high score, favorite level or worst enemy to their friends. Heck, let them put their own photos in so when their friends go to play they have to fight their friends to top their scores.

Hell, if I had any brains I would be building a company right now and trying to get some VC money for a company that can do all of this already. But of course I’m here sharing my ideas with the world. If you take my idea and makes millions, at least give me some props later for the idea or an inside scoop and a nice gadget prize pack…

There has been a lot of talk about interactivity in online video ads being the way of the future. But aren’t video games the ultimate form of video interaction? Imagine an ad in the future where you take the reins, you decide where it goes and you are the star. Pick up your gamepad and no longer just view ads passively, take control of them and make them do what you want. Fast forward, replay, gain lives, levels, coupons and gear. Beat the all-time high score and become immortalized on a box of LIFE cereal or have your likeness in the next Super Bowl Doritos advertisement.

Doesn’t that all sound like fun? Of course, we’ll need a whole new set of tools to create these, new agencies to make and market them and new…no wait, we can just hook online video ads to indie game developers around the world and voila! Instant industry evolution! 1-Up!

To gamify this post, find the logos in the treasure map above… ye scurvy dogs, I be vacatin’ the premises Yarrr!