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Publishers shun TV advertising, favour online

When one publisher goes public on how its slashing its TV advertising budget it's noteworthy; when a second publisher reveals it's doing likewise you have to wonder if we're seeing the beginning of a trend.

First EA's Jens Uwe Intat revealed to an investor event that the company would shun expensive TV campaigns in favour of cheaper, more targeted online versions, and now THQ's Danny Bilson has said some very similar things.

I don't know about anybody else, but while I can see the sense, it seems like a curious about-turn for an industry that's long hankered after acceptance from more socially-mature entertainment channels - after all, it was EA that recently put an ad for Dante's Inferno in the Superbowl commercial break, apparently hitting 115 million viewers in the process.

But the problem is that it's expensive. I'd hate to see the invoice for that Dante's ad, and while it was an interesting marketing 'event' I wonder if publishers can really justify that kind of marketing spend when headcount and portfolio numbers are dwindling.

Then there's the issue of efficiency - with Renault opting to promote awareness of its not-available-for-another-year electric car inside The Sims, EA must acknowledge that non-entertainment brands are looking at alternatives to TV advertising as well - as games themselves help to cannibalise TV audiences, and on-demand options facilitate ad-skipping.

So are we about to see a wholesale change in videogames marketing? Certainly, the engagement statistics for games websites and social networks - along with the targeting they can offer - make the internet much more cost-effective as a platform.

But at the time of writing there are at least a couple of high profile games-related campaigns running on TV in the UK that I've seen - Ubisoft is promoting Assassin's Creed Brotherhood already (well, the pre-order of it), while Microsoft is showing off the new Xbox 360.

It's likely that the platform holders will always have budget to spare - it's how they work on other areas of their portfolio (be it software or consumer goods), so they know how to do it well.

Likewise, the need to make key product launches into as much of an 'event' as possible means that Call of Duty, FIFA, World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto and the like will also get some decent small screen budget.

But I'd expect ad spend for everything else to be much more focused on hitting certain key demographics - and that's likely to be games-related websites for core games, or lifestyle and social networks for more casual experiences.

I for one think that will be money better spent, too.