In-Game Advertising - Smart Ways for Brands to Reach Targeted and Immersed Audiences
The rise in interest for gaming has been one of the big trends of the pandemic. With more consumers than ever spending time immersed in virtual worlds, how can brands reach them to encourage real world action? Daniel Todaro looks at some of the smart ways brands are capitalising on the opportunities presented with in-game advertising.
More of us are spending increasing amounts of our lives immersed in electronic games. It is a trend many brands have cottoned on to, as they use the virtual world to encourage real world action.
The stereotyped view of the gamer remains the headphone plugged in, square-eyed teen in their room. But of course, the fact this image has persisted for twenty years highlights an important fact. The teenagers of the 90s are now middle-aged and still love gaming. While younger consumers might game more, there is significant penetration among older audiences who have grown up with consoles. According to Statista while 73% of 18-24 year olds regularly play computer games, 40% of their parents’ generation (45-54 year olds) are also still regular gamers.
Gaming is moving away from being an entertainment source to being integral to how many people form connections with their friends, as well as with their preferred brands. So the idea that gaming is anti-social is misplaced.
For millennials, gaming is a huge part of their life and identity. They are gamers, they have purchasing power, they’re into new stuff, but also respond well to games that make them feel nostalgic. They are also mobile-first. While the traditional view of gaming is via an Xbox or Playstation, mobile games now contribute 51% of the entire global revenue from the gaming industry.
Today, advertising in video games is served in a way that is sensitive to the game environment and blends unobtrusively with gameplay. Smart brands have really begun to capitalise on the opportunities presented with in-game advertising. It has become more urgent for many. The onset of Covid and social distancing has blocked off many other traditional mass market advertising routes. This ranges from less footfall for outdoor advertising in ghostly city centres to still shut sports stadia.
The Covid Effect
Recent evidence highlights how much time we are now spending immersed in online, virtual worlds. A report from Digital Voices shows that viewership of the gaming category on YouTube is up an astonishing 31% since the start of Covid. Reflecting this, there has been a sharp increase in Twitch viewership and a jump in esports influencers on TikTok. People are playing and watching games to keep themselves distracted during these difficult times.
So brands have varied, engaged and growing audiences to reach through collaborations which many are now acting on, if belatedly. For brands dipping their toe in the virtual waters, they should take the time to really think about what they are looking to achieve with sympathetic forms of collaboration. Being seen to advertise in an inappropriate way can backfire as Burger King recently discovered to their cost on Twitch. They used a bot that normally reads out messages from fans to announce meal offers. This was seen as being "spammy" and exploitative and fans were quick to vent their fury.
Here are some of our favorite examples of effective in game brand collaborations:
1) The face that launched a thousand trainers
Adidas recently chose to collaborate with streaming star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins to launch a new line of trainers that was sold out in under an hour. Ninja, famously known for playing Fortnite, was delighted and posted a video thanking his fans.
2) No stadiums? No problem
Adidas also recreated the canceled European Championship in the FIFA Playstation video game in June as a way to offset some of the inventory it lost from the live matches. Matches between 12 footballers and 12 celebrities were live-streamed across Adidas’ Facebook Live, IGTV and YouTube Live profiles in Turkey.
3) DHL delivers an inter dimensional experience
The ESL One Hamburg activation with shipping company DHL was one of the most compelling examples of a smart brand collaboration. It showcased what is possible when a brand’s message is paired with a game and community to deliver an effective and engaging result. ESL’s campaign featured content creator Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner cast as an employee at an “interdimensional” DHL facility that serves both the physical and video game worlds, complete with an in-game version of DHL’s automated warehouse robot, EffiBOT.
4) Can we target voters? Yes, we can
Back in 2008, Barack Obama (then Senator) achieved a first when his presidential campaign ads appeared in the popular EA game Burnout Paradise on Xbox 360. A billboard message inside the game encouraged players to register to vote. Obama realized back then what many brands are taking note of today: young audiences of 18 to 34-year-olds — which represent the core gamer group. As we approach the next Presidential election expect similar plays from the candidates to reach a younger audience.
As brand collaborations with game developers become more common, the industry will move into a structured ecosystem demanding more advanced measures of viewability, analytics and real-time data to improve campaign performance. For one of the newest advertising markets, it’s Game on!