Obama Campaigning on Xbox 360?

This is either a brilliant Photoshop job, some canny viral political campaigning, or both: An Xbox 360 gamer playing Burnout Paradise spotted an Obama campaign billboard with a “Paid for by Obama for President” caption as he whizzed by in his turbocharged sports car, Game Politics is reporting. The site was unable to confirm the ad’s authenticity with Burnout publisher Electronic Arts; I’ve left messages with both EA and the Obama campaign and will update this post if we get confirmation either way.

Its veracity aside, the virtual billboard raises an interesting question: Are political ads in video games a good idea? In terms of eyeballs, I’d have to say yes. Roughly one-third of American households own an Xbox 360, Sony PS3 or Nintendo Wii. In terms of effectiveness, Brandweek recently detailed a survey undertaken by its fellow Nielsen Games division in which 11 percent of gamers said they bought a brand after seeing it advertised in a game.

Of course, buying a brand of shoes or soda is a totally different prospect than buying a politician’s brand in the polling booth. And young voters — the kind most likely to notice an in-game ad — are also the least likely to show up on Election Day.

At the very least, however, several gamer sites are now excitedly talking about the Obama billboard, which translates into some level of viral messaging success. It’s certainly a better idea than John McCain’s Pork Invaders, a knock-off of a video game that was popular when Sen. McCain was already in his 40s.

Hat tip: Broken Toys.