By Kim Tae-gyu
Korea's unique Internet cafes, dubbed ``PC Bang,'' where more than three million people visit everyday, have surfaced as a new medium of advertising.
MediaWeb, a domestic PC Bang management software developer, said Monday that a mounting number of marketers are turning to PC Bangs to effectively promote their products.
``We show Internet browser ads or banner ads at default pages or pop-up windows of PC Bang computers. The responses are pretty good,'' MediaWeb official Do Sung-woon said.
``Many advertisers recognize the efficiency of the ads targeted at PC Bang-goers. Its other advantage is that it can target customers in specific regions based on locations of PC Bangs,'' Do said.
Do added a company can focus on areas where it has failed to make its presence felt by asking to feature its ads at PC Bangs situated in weak areas.
G-Market, the nation's No. 1 online shopping site by sales, adopted PC Bang ads after an analysis that PC Bang-based ads generate more turnover than those at ordinary Web sites.
``Traditionally, only game companies took advantage of PC Bang ads but online shopping firms and portal sites are paying attention,'' Do said.
``We hope the shift to PC Bang ads will accelerate. The market size is 20 billion won this year but the figure is expected to rocket down the road,'' he said.
PC Bang, otherwise called local area network (LAN)-based gaming center, is a place where people can get access to high-speed Internet for a fee of about $1 an hour.
PC Bang came to town in the mid 1990s and now up to 22,000 are tucked into every spare sliver of real estate, armed with top-of-the-line computers and high-bandwidth connectivity.
They come in various sizes from very small and equipped with single-digit computers to mega-sized, outfitted with hundreds of terminals.
PC Bang is an important contributor to the economy because the cyber cafes account for about one-fourth of the country's annual desktop computer demand of one million units.
They have also helped the online gaming industry flourish in Korea by providing a business model to game developers, who found avid consumers in PC Bang-goers.
It is common here for crowds of students, mostly male teenagers or 20-somethings, to throng to PC Bangs to play online games that need considerable bandwidth.