The first ad integrations in video games emerged in the early 1980s when the popularity of consoles and slot machines exploded.
In films and TV shows of those times, product placement was already commonplace. A dozen brands appear in Robert Zemeckis's film Back to the Future: Nike, Pepsi, Texaco, JVC, Miller beer and others. For the first two, the appearance on the screens has become a cult phenomenon. When the movie came out in 1985, Pepsi's integration reduced the gap to Coca-Cola to a minimum. And fans of the trilogy have been waiting for more than 30 years for Nike to mass-produce sneakers with automatic lacing, like the ones Marty McFly wore in the movie.
Brands hoped that just like the movies, games would also become a platform for advertising, but the technologies of the 80s did not allow to integrate product placement seamlessly. In the movie you see many details from everyday life on the screen simultaneously, so you can organically place a branded product among them. While in the game for the SEGA console, McDonald's burger would have to be made much larger than the rest of the elements so that the player could see it.
Therefore, developers and publishers came up with other ways to collaborate with brands. This is how the term Advergame appeared — a game made exclusively for advertising purposes. Here, the brand is not integrated into the gameplay, the whole plot is built around it.
In 1983, Johnson&Johnson launched Tooth Protector, a game where the player had to protect
their teeth from a snack monster. The dog food maker Ralston Purina has released a game
where a dog makes its way through a maze to a cart. The game was a continuation of the brand's advertising on television, where the pets ran to a similar cart.
Coca-Cola used games to play tricks on competitors. Together with Atari, they redesigned the shooter Space Invaders, popular in the late 70s. According to the plot of the original game, the player controls a laser weapon and kills aliens approaching in rows. In the adapted version, the
approaching aliens formed the letters PEPSI, so the player had to “shoot” the brand. The game was presented to participants in the Coca-Cola sales convention in Atlanta.
For the beer brand Budweiser, the arcade Tapper was developed, where the player poured beer to customers and collected empty glasses in a virtual bar. The game was planned to be installed only on slot machines in bars, but users liked it so much that owners of ordinary gambling halls began to buy it.