Games on the internet? What are they playing at?

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The Independent Online

"Who on earth would visit Ribena.co.uk?" asked an incredulous friend over a (working) lunch. I grimaced. Only days before my entire office had been a pit of debauched berry bouncing as we battled to get the Ribenaberries across an assault course on the site's latest game.

"Who on earth would visit Ribena.co.uk?" asked an incredulous friend over a (working) lunch. I grimaced. Only days before my entire office had been a pit of debauched berry bouncing as we battled to get the Ribenaberries across an assault course on the site's latest game.

It is estimated that 22 million people will be spending $8bn playing games on the internet by 2002. Companies such as dotmusic, Mercury Records and Mondex have all recently added addictive games to their sites as part of a viral marketing campaign.

Commenting on new research commissioned by online gaming site Getminted.com, Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist from the University of London last week said: "Performing in public is the number one fear in Britain, above even dying." He's obviously tuned into the BBC's excruciating new quiz show, The Weakest Link, hosted by Anne Robinson. Unsurprisingly, the research showed that anonymity and accessibility are the key attractions of online quizzes.

Most staggering is that one in five people get so wound up prior to a quiz that they drink several pints. "God knows," I replied, as I emptied my wineglass and returned to the office.

Dooyou or don't you?

Talking of getting wound up and Anne Robinson (the two usually go hand in hand), Dooyoo.co.uk is a German-based dot.com that recently launched in the UK, and that rewards users with "Dooyoo" miles for their reviews of everything from films to DVD players. "Not another b2c dot.com story!" I hear you cry. Well, no.

They call this c2c, or c2b, allowing users to let consumers and businesses know exactly what they think. This is getting complicated, but we could be talking about b2c2c2b.

Last week an irate 16-year-old told how, in all his years, he had "NEVER been to a place in which such a bunch of sorry-ass ingrates work". Where in the world had he been? PC World. Having decided to buy a CD writer with his GCSE "bonus", he was told it would come with 50 free blank CDs, which he ended up paying £25 for. He was then told it would cost £25 to get the CD writer fitted, and oh, £25 to fix the computer which the engineer had broken in doing so. The lad declined this final offer. "I would rather suck toilet water through a sweaty sock before I shop there again," he spat. Pedro Inneco, computer category manager at Dooyoo.co. uk, stepped in. "What they did to your computer makes me sick. I will fix your computer and fit the CD writer free in front of you if you wish," he said. It was the kind of customer service central to the latest ad campaigns for PC World - where good service "goes on and on".

Portal combat

LineOne last week announced that it is moving from being a broad-based destination site to targeting time-pressed 30- to 45-year-olds, and will invest more in generating revenue through e-commerce. "We believe that the future for portals is away from an all-you-can-eat model to segmentation," said Mary Turner, managing director.

Across Europe, it is believed that top portals will choke out the smaller players but that even they will lose their relevance as specialist sites, marketing services providers and new platforms compete for the same budget. According to Forrester Research, a mix of US invaders like AOL and Yahoo!, plus national telco-linked portals like Terra, will win the portal shakeout.

As bricks-and-mortar companies move their advertising online, they will prefer top-tier portals because they guarantee the most visitors. This will result in second-tier players either courting top tiers for acquisition or refocusing their business models on access, consolidating with peers, or simply folding.

Budgets will be pumped from portals to specialist sites that offer targeted audiences, repeat exposure and commerce tie-ins. Which is why LineOne is doing what it is doing to survive.

The Beeb's ad dilemma

I was enchanted this week by a PR stunt (somebody shoot me), as a children's Ladybird-style book called A Guide to Shopping on the Internet landed on my desk. It was from BBC Worldwide's shopping portal, Beeb.com, and reminded me of long-forgotten heroes such as Rapunzel and my own favourite, the Elves and the Shoemaker.

Here, in the midst of a money-grabbing, brand-conscious industry was an innocent gem. A bit like the BBC, you might think. Well, the BBC is under close scrutiny following news that it is considering taking advertising on BBC Online, contradicting its staunchly independent brand.

Analysts have been shaking their heads, saying that the move will erode the BBC's brand image and bring in only pocket money. Why? It's true that BBC Online generates huge traffic, but Greg Dyke has ruled out advertising on the news sections, which attract 65 per cent of traffic.

Talking of online advertising, the research company NetValue has just launched its latest internet research tool, Ad-Impact, which it claims gives advertising agencies the chance to give advertisers the kind of in-depth feedback on the effectiveness of online campaigns as TV campaigns.

Ironically, the press launch was held at the top of the London Television Centre.

My fetish for online quizzes was again rumbled when NetValue revealed that half of Thomas Cook Online's traffic for one month came from the free lottery site Bananalotto.co.uk. Half of that traffic was me.

Lisa.Simmons@haynet.com

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