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Obama Campaign Buys Ads in 18 Video Games

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ads for Barack Obama will appear in a total of 18 video games, including the extremely popular "Guitar Hero" and "Madden 09" — but only in certain states, the Obama campaign confirmed Tuesday.

"These ads will help us expand the reach of VoteforChange.com, so that more people can use this easy tool to find their early vote location and make sure their voice is heard," said Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro.

Screenshots of Obama ads in the racing game "Burnout Paradise" began circulating around the Internet Monday.

Ads of any sort in video games began to run only a couple of years ago, and Obama is the first presidential candidate to buy space, according to Holly Rockwood, a spokeswoman for Electronic Arts, Inc., whose company is featuring the Obama ads in nine of its games.

The ads — appearing on billboards and other signage — remind players that early voting has begun and plug a campaign Web site that encourages people to register for early voting.

Obama campaign officials said the video game ads target 10 states that allow early voting, including several battleground states: Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado.

The campaign did not say how much it cost to launch the ad blitz on gamers.

The Democrat's ads are aimed primarily at game players who like sports, including NASCAR, the NBA, the NHL and skateboarding, meaning EA Sports' motto, "It's in the game," now applies to presidential politics as well.

Rockwood would not say how much the ads cost, but she said they are running on the Xbox Live versions of the game through Nov. 3. They began earlier this month.

The timing of the Obama ads within the video game varies from state to state. Players in smaller states may see the Obama ads for almost an entire month, while users in bigger states may see them for a shorter period.

"It reaches an audience that is typically hard to reach — young males, roughly 18 to 34," said Rockwood. "That's very appealing to our advertisers."

Rockwood declined to say how much revenue the company generates from selling ad space in its games. The company has struck past ad deals with Ford Motor Co. and Puma.

For those who still associate video games with clunky "Pac-Man" or "Space Invaders" consoles, here's how in-game advertising works: The Xbox 360 console connects to the Internet, so it can be updated with new features, including ads.

In the case of "Burnout: Paradise," the game came out in stores in January, but the Obama ads were only inserted this month.

Xbox Live subscriptions can be free or paid for, depending upon the level of service, but credit-card information gives Microsoft details about where each subscriber lives, allowing it to send regionally targeted ads to each individual.

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