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By Tobias Knutsson, CEO, Adverty

It’s taken a lot to finally rub out marketers’ lingering belief that gaming is a thing for kids, a niche media channel, a flash in the pan. The pandemic did some of the final lifting, but in a gaming business that is booming on all sides, absorbing women, older people, obsessive Esports fans, cloud gamers, monthly subscribers – you name it – the numbers are now unignorable: an estimated audience of somewhere between 2.5bn and 3bn+, with a global value of $162.32bn last year. If that’s not mainstream, what is?

Nike, Coca-Cola, Redbull, even Gucci and L’Oréal have all waded into the gaming space, and smaller brands with more modest budgets are beginning to follow. So gaming is having a moment that started some time ago and promises to last – what should its exponents do to maximise it and build strong, sustainable connections with brands?

Hold their hands

Brands that are new to gaming often lack in-house expertise and even background knowledge. As with social media, gaming needs dedicated experts on the client side, and inevitably brands will recruit their own, but until that part of the puzzle falls into place, it is incumbent on publishers and ad tech providers to explain the protocols, the opportunities and the rules of thumb in clear and accessible terms. (In brief: respect the space, add value, but don’t get in the way.)

Bring gaming ads in line with other media

Convincing marketers is one thing, but the gaming advertising business needs to give those executives the tools to win the argument with the finance people. That means the gaming world needs to work hard to standardise its metrics, its formats, its sizes, in order to bring itself into line with the wider ad industry. Gaming is a complex environment for brands, who will ultimately only invest in what they understand. So the emergence of formats that stand direct comparison with those of other media – such as  Adverty’s own In-Play branding ads and In-Menu performance ads – combined with robust metrics, strengthen gaming’s pitch for brand dollars.

Never generalise

The gaming audience is indescribably varied and ranges far beyond the young, male stereotype. More than 50% of mobile gamers are older than 34 [source: Mediakix] and 51% are women [source: MoPub]. So the question isn’t any longer about which brands could benefit from targeting ‘a gaming audience’, but exactly how to target your brand’s precise audience through gaming.

Make it worthwhile for users

The predominance of mobile games – which last year claimed $120 billion of consumer spend against home and handheld consoles’ $43 billion [source: App Annie] – indicates a need for strong mobile-friendly advertising models. A weight of research points to the fact that  free-to-play gamers understand the value exchange and are comfortable with the presence of advertisers, but tolerance turns to genuine enthusiasm when brands add value to gaming. In-game rewards such as hints and power-ups work well in exchange for watching ads and dovetail nicely with in-game purchases. Further research points to the effectiveness of in-game branding advertising as a driver of positive sentiment.