For nearly the entire length of the Presidential campaign  neither candidate was doing any notable online video marketing tactics outside of their own YouTube channel. That changed in the past couple of weeks, when “virtual billboards” for Barak Obama starting appearing in popular Xbox 360 games online play option – This is what is referred to as video game advertising, or by industry insiders as “advergaming.” While it may present an emerging Video SEO opportunity, it does come with a new set of challenges, especially for future political campaigns.

Eric Franchi, Undertone NetworksColumnist Eric Franchi spoke with ReelSEO about his recent column, “Breaking New Battleground,” which covers how advergaming has broken new ground for political candidates and marketing. Eric shares with us in our audio interview on how online advergaming can provide new opportunities for marketers in the organic side of online video marketing, such as with search engine optimization and social media optimization.

For a little background, Eric is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Undertone Networks, an online advertising services firm that according to Eric, worked with both Presidential campaigns. Eric also writes in one of the regular columns for Media Post Publications,  “Online Video Insider – The Inside Line on Internet Content and Advertising.

Why Video SEO is hard for political campaigns

Eric elaborated on what have been some of the major obstacles for candidates to heavily engage in an organic video strategy:

  • Small online marketing teams. Eric’s own company found that even on the Presidential scale, both candidates have very small teams that are dedicated to digital media. “Each team only has a few people that are dedicated to all of online. Really devoting the time and resources have been a manpower issue.” Despite this limited manpower, each candidate’s YouTube channels have actually been performing very good.
  • Traditional conversion goals. Most online marketing for candidates have been about ROI and direct-response, i.e., fundraising. “Even though both candidates did a really good job in the social search space, their unique online ads were confined to display and search, rather than video content.” says Eric.
  • Advertising venue limitations. Most of the online advertising by the candidates were done in the search space, and in the portals and ad networks, the latter of “which really don’t allow for a lot of out-of-the-box online tactics when it comes to online video. Portals and ad networks need to be very standard to have a scalable offering sometimes.” says Eric.

Obama – The first candidate in the advergaming space

About 2 weeks ago, news sites, gaming sites and political websites were reporting screenshots of “Obama Billboard Ads” popping up in various Xbox 360 games targeted primarily for the younger adult male audience.

“In a car racing game, the Obama ad could be on the side of the road. In an NBA game, it could be on the side of the court.” Says Eric. “It looks like Obama is the first candidate to enter into the advergaming space, which is still really in its infancy even though the advergaming space has been around for some time now. It needed to reach some critical mass with all of the users that play each other and have enough consoles and available for downloads to really make the advertising scale at the level that it should be. Its now there, and Obama was delivering against specific titles that are popular and for the type of person they wanted to target: 18-34 males, and getting his early voting message out to them.”

How the online gamer becomes the new Video SEO opportunity

Eric believes that the advergaming opportunity can definitely translate into the social media and seo space in a short period of time. “If you take a look at the average demo of the hardcore gamer, and you look at the average demo of the two largest social networking sites (MySpace and Facebook), they’re really roughly the same. It’s a little bit older than what most people think. The average age is 30, which really matches well for an audience that is doing both. Online gaming really is social media. It’s the ability to play with each other, comment, interact, all that stuff. I think its only a matter of time for some of the companies that are heavily invested in this to start bridging that gap.” he says. “When it becomes a larger piece of the overall advergaming market, you’ll see things catching up with SEO. It just has to be popular.”