Advertisers enthralled by the games children play: A highly targeted message comes with the video show, writes Corinne Simcock

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The Independent Online
DANIEL BOBROFF had just left his job as a media planner with Young & Rubicam and was wondering what to do next. Then he had a brainwave.

His idea was entertainment software - a media opportunity for advertisers that he believed no one else had identified. It would enable brands to be exposed to a carefully targeted market in an uncluttered environment.

It was a simple enough concept. While satellite television reaches one in ten homes, video games are found in one in three.

Played on a television screen, they are seen without commercial breaks, and hence there is no competition from rival brands.

After extensive research, Mr Bobroff formed Microtime Media and persuaded a couple of friends to join him. For Mark Cadogan, 27, that meant leaving the Army. While he waited for his commission to run out, Mr Bobroff and Nelson Gayton approached major software publishers with the idea.

'Our skill lies in finding the most suitable game for an advertiser's brand,' says Mr Bobroff, who is also 27. Those that have signed up so far include McVitie, the biscuit-maker, Pepsi-cola and Duckhams, the lubricants company.

Each game is tested to ensure a minimum of one hour of consumption per pound spent. With an average retail price of pounds 25, that means 25 hours of brand exposure.

'With broadcast media you have to utilise every second, partly because of the clutter but also because there is only something like seven minutes of advertising space available per hour,' Mr Bobroff says.

'With Microtime, on the other hand, the advertiser can afford to be far more sympathetic to the needs of his audience.'

Because children choose the title they want to play, the game provides a highly targeted advertising vehicle. The children are playing the brand.

Microtime Media now represents the software publishers behind 80 per cent of Britain's games output. Describing his company as the publishers' sales and marketing arm, Mr Bobroff says: 'At the same time, we're enabling advertising agencies to offer their clients a new and very powerful marketing tool.'

Costs vary enormously, but for a software publisher to produce an original title across two home computer formats, for example, requires a minimum six-figure budget.

Advertising rates begin at pounds 8,738 for a guaranteed circulation of 25,000 units, and publishers' statements are provided so the client can keep track of sales. A strong title can sell between 25,000 and 50,000 in Britain, a top title more than 100,000.

'Obviously the core of the market is young people, but there are sporting opportunities which are very effective at reaching adults,' Mr Bobroff said.