Product placement has long been the norm in motion pictures and, more recently, has become prevalent in video games as well. Video game budgets grow ever larger, and revenue from in-game advertising goes a long way toward increasing profit margins. Video games, particularly blockbusters like GTA V, are very attractive as an advertising platform because it gets a brand noticed in a way that consumers embrace and in which they’re unable to fast-forward past or circumvent in other ways.
GTA, a Double-Edged Sword
The Grand Theft Auto series is, however, a mixed bag for advertisers. On one hand, it’s extremely popular with the core male demographic that so many brands desperately want access to; on the other hand, the media often spotlights GTA during launches and makes it the focus of stories that view video games in a negative light. Any article or news story that considers the relationship between video games and child violence will certainly discuss GTA.
Automobiles Earn a Free Pass
Automobiles, however, are an example of marketing within the GTA series that can and has gone unnoticed. Although there have been exceptions, Rockstar Games has largely chosen to create automobile knockoffs rather than use the real deal. Throughout the years, gamers have been able to drive Land Rovers and Porsches around the GTA world, but those vehicles usually had satirical names and cartoonish elements.
Dodge Charger Stands Out
For GTA V, Rockstar has chosen to continue that tradition, but one car in particular stands out. The game has three chief protagonists, and each of them has a special vehicle bound to them. In the case of Franklin, it’s a Bravado Buffalo muscle car, essentially a Dodge Charger. The Bravado Buffalo isn’t just a knockoff like most GTA cars have been in the past; it’s a distinct replica with precise features. The only real differences are the name change and the missing logo on the grille.
Positive Brand Association
Everyone who sits down to play GTA V will recognize Franklin’s Dodge Charger. The real genius here is that Dodge goes unscathed because it’s not technically a Dodge vehicle. Why don’t other GTA cars have this much verisimilitude? No one knows for sure, but the obvious answer is that Dodge coordinated a deal to have its car in GTA V without actually having to own to it.
Some have called this free advertising for Dodge, but that seems unlikely when you consider the games bizarre versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette.