Multinational Monitor

NOV/DEC 2008
VOL 29 No. 3


The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008
by Robert Weissman

Carbon Market Fundamentalism
by Daphne Wysham

A Last Chance to Avert Disaster
testimony of James Hansen


Plunge: How Banks Aim to Obscure Their Losses
an interview with Lynn Turner

The Financial Crisis and the Developing World
an interview with Jomo K.S.

The Centralization of Financial Power
an interview with Bert Foer

“Everyone Needs to Rethink Everything”
an interview with Simon Johnson

Toxic Waste Build-Up
an interview with Lee Pickard

“Before That, They Made A Lot of Money”
an interview with Nomi Prins


Behind the Lines

Public Ownership, Public Control

The Front
Thirsty for Justice - Whitewashing Honda

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Commercial Alert

The Ads on the Bus

The yellow school buses in some Michigan school districts may soon resemble public city buses — complete with ads plastered inside. Strapped for cash, several of the state’s schools are in negotiations with marketing firms to sell ads on school buses.

“Times are hard,” Mike Gwizdala, director of transportation at one Michigan school told Advertising Age. “The fuel prices are definitely affecting all transportation, whether it’s a school bus or a metro bus. It’s definitely having an effect on a lot of people and school districts are in that boat.”

School officials say that any ads placed in the buses would be age and subject appropriate.

The Michigan school districts are not alone in their bus-ad venture. One school district in Colorado raised $54,000 in revenue from bus advertisements in 2007.

However, other school districts have taken the opposite route. In September, the South Carolina school board passed a measure banning all school bus ads. The state estimated schools could have received $10.6 million in revenue from the ads, but the ban was widely applauded. “This action prevents for-profit companies from forcing children to hear or view advertising harmful to them or objectionable to their parents,” says South Carolina State Senator Greg Ryberg.

Viagra Video Games

Viagra lost some of its “viva” when the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) shut down Pfizer’s attempt to market its “little blue pill” through an online video game.

Viagra’s “Viva Cruiser” game — in which players guided a motorcyclist down a desert road picking up gifts for a date, including small, diamond-shaped blue pills — was pulled from in September. Viagra’s “Viva Viagra” theme song played in the background with a narrator’s voice toning, “Don’t let erectile dysfunction get you down.”

The video game was pulled shortly after Pfizer removed a video ad from, which aired without required warning messages. “The video is misleading because it makes representations and suggestions about the use of Viagra … but fails to disclose any risk information for the drug,” the FDA wrote in its warning letter to Pfizer.

The FDA currently has no explicit rules regulating the online marketing of pharmaceuticals, and most drug companies have been cautious with any direct-to-consumer marketing online. The official websites of top-selling drugs still do not contain links to outside sites, for fear that those websites might contain claims the FDA would deem misleading. Drug websites also generally do not include “chat” or “comment” functions like many other marketing websites, because if a consumer were to leave a negative comment about a drug’s side effects, the company might be legally required to report that to the FDA as an “adverse event” related to the medication.

However, Viagra still has an interactive ad on its official website which prompts viewers to remove “obstacles,” including newspapers, a remote and a telephone, from between a couple sitting on a couch. When all of the obstacles are removed, the couple embraces, and the ad reads, “Make your move.”


Marketers are finding ever-more innovative ways of integrating ads into video games, but are gamers paying attention? A new study by Nielsen Games says they are. The September poll found that 36 percent of video game players have acted on an advertisement seen in a game.

Males age 18 to 34 spend an average of 15 percent of their time playing video games, according to Nielsen, making those games a valuable opportunity for marketers. Of those surveyed, 11 percent of gamers said they purchased a brand advertised in a game; 19 percent said they talked about a product after seeing it in an in-game ad; 10 percent said they recommended the product to friends; and 11 percent said they looked up more information on the brand seen.

The Nielsen study found that Coke, Nike and Burger King were the three most recalled brands. Burger King has worked hard to incorporate its brand into video games, sometimes providing secret codes for “NFL Street,” a top-selling football game, and even integrating its King mascot into “Fight Night,” a boxing game. Burger King also has its own proprietary games for the Xbox, which feature the company’s mascot.

“Burger King’s goal is always to engage gamers in the BK brand through a medium they love,” Brian Gies, vice president of marketing at Burger King, told AdWeek. “Throughout, it’s been about knowing the target audience [of young adult males] and finding relevant ways to reach them through great consumer experiences.”

Global spending for in-game ads hasn’t broken the $200 million mark yet, but experts estimate it will reach $1 billion by 2011.                           

— Jennifer Wedekind


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