Video Games and the Art of Ad Management Part 1

Hey! I’m Kevin and, technically speaking, I’m a Digital Media Manager here at Swash Labs. I wasn’t sure what to do for my first blog post, and when I asked around the office there seemed to be one stand-out question: How did video games get me my job?

I’d already been with Swash Labs for a couple years as an intern and a contract illustrator. The boss knew I could work, and he knew I could problem-solve. After we had a talk about how to breed Pokémon and really got into the nitty gritty about how many variables you've got to juggle, Josh took a leap: Maybe I had the head for a new world of ads and statistics. Well, I'd expressed an interest in light coding before, and something about statistics has always tickled parts of my brain. So I figured, why not give it a shot?

In the main Pokémon video games, players have been able to breed their critters for a while now. On the surface there isn’t that much to it: drop off two of ‘em at your neighborhood daycare and, if they like each other, you just might come back to a shiny new egg. Of course, sure as there are people devoted enough to take their creatures off to real life tournaments for fun and glory, there’s more than that for the hardcore crowd to sink their teeth into.

In some abstract form, there’s genetics. There’re secret statistics influenced by the personalities of parents. There are special abilities that you’ll need a parent to have if you want your new Pokémon to inherit them. It’s a system that hardcore players use to get critters into exactly the shape they want them in, and often with crazy powers that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

In short: It’s complex. There are a lot of rules. A lot to know, a lot of numbers to keep track of, and, most enjoyably, a lot of possibilities.  In a nutshell, that’s what digital advertising is like at its best.

What do you want to say? Who do you want to say it to? Once you've chosen your goal, figuring out a way to get there is much more than half the battle. Getting to a certain group of people using tools that may not directly feature them can be a challenge and require a little bit of sideways thinking. If I can't advertise to people who, let's say, like Pokémon outright, can I advertise to Nintendo fans in a certain age range? Retro game fans and people searching for related things? Maybe gamers who like other "cute" IPs?

In addition, how do you set your budget? Too little and you won't be efficiently hitting your audience, but too much and you just might burn them out on your ads. When do you run it and where? Let's not forget, once you've run your ads you also get to come back and pour over your data so you can see what worked and make the next generation even stronger.

Video games, and not just the monster fighting variety, are rife with statistics and opportunities to theorize, test, and compare numbers and how they interact with complex systems. There are more than a few similarities with the kind of statistical science and theory you can get down to in digital advertising, and I'd love to explore those relationships a lot more in future blog posts!

Now that I've been working in this field for over a year I can say: It's enjoyable, and I'm glad I got into it when I did.

There is one skeleton in my closet: I'm not actually that into breeding Pokémon. I know how, sure, but mostly you breed 'em to bulk up for real tournaments, and I've just got too many games to play (and too many ads to run) for that.

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