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66% of all Americans are involved in gaming. Globally, there are 3 billion gaming users. These figures have gained the attention of brand marketers. Brands are looking to see how they fit into the gaming space, and how advertising in gaming may fit into their marketing mix.
While there are some misconceptions about what “gaming” is, and many tiers to gaming, Harry Wilkins, Senior Manager, Gaming at The Trade Desk was one of the panelists at our recent BIMA event, “Gaming’s Present & Future: Creativity, Attention, & Social Connection,” and he noted that while some gamers prefer console or mobile gaming, at the core, gaming is sharing a social experience, not unlike social media or other forums. Rutvik Kadkol, Media Supervisor at Mediahub Worldwide, added, “at the end of the day we are all gamers. In some way or fashion, you are a gamer. If you have ever played Candy Crush, you are a gamer. If you have ever played Angry Birds, you are a gamer.”
Adam Kasper, EVP, Managing Director at iProspect, was another one of the panelists. He shed some light on the opportunity presented by advertising in-game, “there’s not a single media channel out there that is as big in scale that has relatively little adoption from the advertisers.” This echoes what Ad Age reports: “In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, gaming is a largely untapped attention oasis.”
For brands wondering how they might take the next step to in-game advertising as a new avenue to keep customers engaged, read on for the key takeaways from the panel, which was moderated by Meredith Worrilow Barrett, Senior Director, Global Head of Business Marketing at Activision Blizzard Media.
Gamers are very engaged in what they are doing when they are in the game. Rutvik shared that “compared to ads on TV, your 100% attention in gaming is there—they are forced not only to get the ad, but to interact with it.” Brands can create custom assets within games and create “games within games” (mini ad units in games). There is, as Rutvik says, “an entire spectrum from which you can immerse the brand into games.”
One huge opportunity in the console space right now (think Call of Duty, Fortnight) is in-game transactions and in eSports are advertisers being the “brought to you by” brand. Gamers also value exchanges of content and added experiences. Harry gave a good example of this: “there’s a lot of opportunity for brands to get creative with the format, to provide a new level, extra life, etc.” and recently, intrinsic ads allow ad space within the game format itself for display ads. This
could mean the game is in a city or a football stadium, and there’s a billboard with an ad from an actual advertiser. Harry added that he’d “love to see brands lean in more to it.”
A great example of this type of advertising that the panel shared is a telco company promoting high-speed internet who partnered with Twitch to advertise to gamers directly in the game itself. For brands fighting for attention across so many screens, Harry noted that games can have a short life cycle, so brands should “make sure they have a call to action to make the best use of being in the mobile space.”
There is a misconception about gamers that, as Adam said, causes the need for “education and showing marketers the many avenues into it.” The truth is that while a lot of gaming is done on mobile devices, “gaming is social by nature,” but varies greatly by the gaming type. Console gaming and handheld gaming are two very different things. With console gaming, gamers have the opportunity to share and be competitive, whereas handheld gaming can be more 1:1. Additionally, social sharing happens in and outside the gaming environment.
Rutvik added that we should “think about how social media works, it’s an online community of people, think of gaming in the same way. Gaming can fit into having virtual connections with people and as marketers you can connect into this space and interact with people in the same way you would on Facebook.” Fortnight is a great example of this—it’s a Metaverse where gamers can have hangout sessions, in addition to the straight aspects of playing the game.
Adam summed it up nicely when he encouraged advertisers to “go in with an open mind, don’t let perceptions of what you think gamers are guide your strategy. Do it based on research and what your audience does.”
For advertisers to understand the landscape of gaming, they need to spend time and education on gaming. As Adam said, “the advertiser doesn’t need to buy into the concept of gaming, per se, but a lot of it is creating a customized approach and thinking about the consumer and how they are going to be receiving the advertising.” Some of this involves thinking about the gaming type itself. There are huge differences in console versus handheld gaming for example, and Adam noted, “as an industry there needs to be more separation to tap into its potential.” Harry emphasized the importance of understanding what games your target audience plays.
While measurement in gaming can be tricky, Harry suggested that marketers ask themselves: “if I include gaming in my media plan, am I adding more conversions? Is my time to conversion increasing?” Additionally, Adam described the lack of comparison points in gaming as something that also makes measurement in this space challenging, noting that you can’t fully compare apples to apples within gaming as you would in streaming or display. So it’s important to “get an understanding of what metrics it will deliver.”
While there are apps that enable you to measure your ad performance in gaming, looking at the metrics themselves compared with other channels, such as what is counted as a “view” (in gaming it is 10 seconds, versus 2 in display, a huge difference) and the ability to prove value are extremely important. As Adam shared, “This is especially challenging as advertisers measure rear-view research and it takes a long time to get to a place to prove value.”
Similarly to how brands were concerned when YouTube advertising stated that some ads might be associated with a political video or something advertisers may not want to align their brand with, some brands have the same fear with gaming. As Adam shared, “they feel like they are risking their brand’s safety going into gaming. While gaming has scale and attention, what gaming has not proven yet is that it’s a place where brands can build their reputation. The building blocks are there, it’s a matter of perception.”
What can brands do? One option is to add a partner (brand safety monitoring service) to make sure they are managing brand perception on this newer channel.
This message from the group was loud and clear: creative and the strategy for in-game advertising are nothing like typical social and video work. As Adam said, “the message to the consumer has to reflect the space. Build messaging that will resonate and respect the gamer and think about what you are trying to get the consumer to do.”
Harry cautioned against repurposing things from other channels, and noted the importance of seeing the end-product that is being used, in the gaming environment itself, before the ad goes live.
Gaming provides a channel of engaged consumers and a platform to create unique, compelling, and more subtle advertising engagements. But given that the gaming space for many marketers gaming is new to their media mixes, there is still work to be done on creating strategies for creative asset development and measurement for this channel.
Mar 28, 20235:30pm – 7:30pmMediahub
Sep 12, 2023 – Sep 16, 2023Greater Boston