Ready, Xfire, AIM: Axed again!l

by Marianne Richmond on January 6, 2006

There is a lot being written about the increasing use of Instant Messaging especially about teenagers. CNET reports the following from an AOL commissioned poll: "Nearly 66 percent of 13- to 21-year-olds say they send more IMs than e-mails, compared with 49 percent last year…


Overall, 38 percent of users say they send as many or more IMs than e-mails…One-fourth of users would like to see entertainment content within instant messages."

In a separate article about business use of Instant Messaging CNET reports,  "It’s official: Instant messaging is the new e-mail for the world’s businesses." They estimate that there are "1 billion IMs sent every day between 28 million enterprise users." Businessweek deemed email "So Five Minutes Ago" and attributed the trend to  "the anthropological shift
occurring among tomorrow’s captains of industry, the text-messaging
Netgens (16-to-24-year-olds), for whom e-mail is so "ovr," "dn," "w/e
(over, done, whatever)." Trendwatching elaborates on virtual anthropology in their December issue.

Of course, where there is a consumer behavior as attractive as this one, advertisers are right there. iMEDIA reports "Major advertisers and their agencies are now leveraging the medium of instant messaging as a mainstream interactive vehicle." IMedia says that "major advertisers including Volvo, Daimler Chrysler, Warner Brothers,
United Paramount Network, NBC Universal, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Tysons Chicken,and ING Direct participate eagerly in IM-related ad campaigns."

MIT Advertising Lab reported in November that AOL was using 2 bots, Moviefone and Shopping Buddy in its instant messaging service. The reception among users has been mixed. In December, they report that MAKE magazine is delivering content via instant message.

"The MAKEbot is a AIM/iChat buddy you add to your buddy list. When you
type latest, he will give you the latest news from You
can type "subscribe 1" and he’ll deliver the latest news each hour. If
you type "photos" you’ll get the latest photos from the MAKE photo
pool, type "bookmarks" you’ll get our latest bookmarks, type
"Instructables" you’ll get the latest how-to projects. Lastly – if you
type keywords like psp, welding, ipod or whatever he’ll search the MAKE
site, the pages from MAKE and give you a link from our search engine to
help you find what you’re looking for.

MAKE is self described "as a hybrid magazine/book (known as a mook in Japan). MAKE comes
from O’Reilly, the Publisher of Record for geeks and tech enthusiasts
everywhere." You can read more about it on the Make Blog.

We can only assume that this is just the beginning. iMEDIA reports a related trend: The relationship between gamers,  Instant Messaging, and advertising content delivery. On-line games users have become their own demographic target. There are over 70 million gamers in the US and they are male and between the ages of 14-35. They are affluent, well educated and love to communicate via IM, blogs, text messages,  websites and voice chat.

 Remember the anthropological shift I just mentioned? Well, the hardcore gamer is the influencer according to iMedia:  "Trends,whether gaming related, fashion, soft drink, cars, music or
film, are determined by the hardest of the hardcore gamers who then
influence less avid gamers"….spreading the word through Instant Messaging while playing games.

Apparently, IMs cause problems with other PC software causing computers to crash. This doesn’t make for a very nice gaming experience. Consequently online game developers solved this problem by allowing for IMs within the game.

One such company, Xfire, "has provided other community tools to improve the ease of
gaming and the spread of community information. Xfire lets gamers see
what games their friends are playing, do IM from within a game to
friends outside the game, do voice chat while in-game, download files
over a fast peer-to-peer system, and more. This has led to Xfire
becoming the fastest growing online gaming community in the world with
over 2.5 million registered users, each user running Xfire an average
of 85 hours per month."

OK, so I had never heard of Xfire and neither had my kids who fit right into the demos. That was the good news. The bad news for parents is that Xfire tracks users. The good news for marketers is that Xfire can implement very targeted behavioral marketing campaigns. Now, while at their site, I noticed a little round burst that said, "Its Free No Spyware". So, if they are tracking all this data, isn’t this spyware??

OK, so I have written before about Axe Deodorant before in terms of their targeting of adolescent boys with the premise that if they use Axe they will get girls. I have also admitted that along with disapproving of the message, I have purchased the product for my son on the premise that the end, a clean boy, justifies the means, buying Axe.  In late 2005, Axe  introduced a new scent, Unlimited, as in, unlimited ways to pick up girls, and used two characters, Evan and Gareth and sent them off on a blog adventure. They also started appearing on Xfire.

In viral marketing mode they started out with downloads of  Evan and Garth movies without mentioning the "A" word. This apparently started the Xfire IM buzz going. Later in the campaign paid placements on Xfire along with Videos with Axe products. According to the iMedia article written by Mike Cassidy, CEO of Xfire,

The results of the campaign were spectacular:

  • Fifteen of the 34 top downloaded files ever on Xfire were Evan & Garreth movies with a total of 530,747 movies downloaded.
  • There was a 99.4 percent increase in awareness of who Evan &
    Garreth were with an astounding 222.5 percent increase in awareness of
    which products were really being featured.
  • Over half (51.7 percent) of the Xfire user base stated their intention to buy Axe products at the end of the campaign
  • And 38.7 percent stated they thought "Axe would help get the girl"

Stowe Boyd writes about a  Forrester Research Study
that affirms the importance of game advertising. The study says that
there are two kinds of game advertising vehicles: in-game advertising
which is like product placement in TV programs and movies and
advergaming which is an on-line game that is promtotion itself. The AXE effort used both methods.

So, from a marketing perspective, the importance of IMs and in-game marketing cannot be overlooked. Also from a marketing perspective, Axe has been a successful word-of-mouth  marketing story. I can even attest to that as a parent having heard my own son give a guest lecture to his friends in the back seat of my car about why he preferred Axe to Gillette’s Tag.

However, from a parent’s perspective I remain concerned about this kind of "word of mouth" campaign targeted at adolescent boys with a message that is blatantly disrespectful and exploitive to women. I am also not comfortable with my kids visiting a gaming site that is mining data under the camouflage of a "no spyware" burst. See Google 2084.

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