EA Shifts TV and Print Budget to Facebook

As Facebook’s audience has grown to an unparalleled reach of consumers around the world, brands and major entertainment companies have ventured deeper into the site to reach key audiences. While gaming companies like EA and Capcom may have traditionally put a greater emphasis on building separate channels to interact with their customers, Facebook is providing them with a wider net of potential fans and regularly engaged consumers.

New data from a pair of case studies on EA and Capcom conclude that game publishers are effectively outperforming their marketing objectives by building new communities on Facebook and interacting with their customers on a more regular basis. EA spent $2.75 million on Facebook for a seven-month campaign aimed at driving sales of its Battlefield 3 game and generated nearly 4.4 times in sales for every $1 it spent on paid advertising.


According to EA’s internal modeling, the game racked up $12.1 million in incremental sales (or 201,000 units of the game) by the end of the campaign. More than 800,000 people talked about the game on Facebook during the week of its release in October 2011, making Battlefield 3 the most talked about page on Facebook at the time, according to the study. All in all, EA sold more than 10 million copies of the game at launch, making it the biggest game launch ever for EA.

Over the span of a little more than a year EA has attracted more than 30 million fans to its various franchises and as many as 30 percent of those fans were talking about the game in the month leading up to its release, said Chris Thorne, senior director of marketing at EA. Facebook and other social channels were mostly an after-thought for the company just a couple years ago, but social media has become a central part of EA’s strategy, he said.

“We believe everything is heading in the digital direction. It’s been a massive realignment internally,” said Thorne. “I can’t understate how much Facebook is at the core of our marketing strategy now.”

While traditional media like print, radio and TV “still have their place,” there is more money flowing out of those channels and into social, he said. “Those types have shifted by the wayside because it’s more difficult to justify that spend.”

For Battlefield 3, EA featured premium content on the franchise’s page and pursued a paid advertising campaign drawn out in three phases. Through a mix of marketplace ads and sponsored stories, EA gained 1.5 million new fans for the page in seven months. The gaming company also used premium ads to turn posts into ads on the homepage and developed an app that gave fans the ability to earn a discount if they achieved certain goals. Finally near the close of the campaign, EA used sponsored stories to amplify posts from fans about the game.

As EA looks ahead to its next major campaign on Facebook it hopes to gain more fans and encourage them to stay engaged with EA games by providing exclusive best content suited for social media.

For Capcom, a 25-year veteran in the gaming industry, Facebook became the central hub for its campaign to launch Resident Evil 6. With its agency Tangible Media, Capcom’s primary objectives were to drive pre-orders of the game and generate buzz prior to its release. Capcom was 50 percent ahead of its goal for pre-orders before the title was released and it tracked a 385 percent increase in PTAT (people talking about this). The company also attracted 200,000 new fans to its Resident Evil page, marking an 8 percent increase overall for a total of more than 3 million fans.

Capcom also opted for a three-part campaign to build awareness, reveal the trailer for the game and propel enthusiasm for the game up through the launch date. It purchased premium ads that included videos, polls and an invite for a special event in January 2012. Premium page post ads were bought to promote the announcement trailer for the game with links to pre-order the game. And finally, Capcom purchased premium, marketplace ads and sponsored stories to continue featuring the trailer and get fans to answer questions about the game.

“We knew that because of Facebook’s global reach and viral nature, we could use the platform to create a big event out of the game’s announcement,” noted John Diamonon, brand manager at Capcom. “Thanks to ads and sponsored stories and the viral nature of our content on Facebook, we ended up generating a lot of buzz.”

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