There has never been so much attention on gaming as there is now — ironic given the medium’s notoriety for proving a distraction to teenagers and adults, alike. Likewise, with the demise of the third-party cookie, premium publishers are suddenly facing an audience of ad buyers who may have previously plumped for a programmatic buy.
For brands looking to reach consumers in 2023 and the years to come, firms such as Scroll Media — a leading light in the world of game-based advertising and premium publishers — have become invaluable to ad buyers and planners in a fragmented market.
Jane Ormsby, managing director of Scroll Media (pictured), explained to B&T why there has never been a better time for brands to get involved in gaming and with premium publishers.
Why is gaming having such a moment?
It’s the absolute growth of gaming, it’s now a $184 billion industry globally. It’s bigger than the music industry. 5G networks are so strong as well now, allowing mobile gaming to lead the charge. More people are playing games on their mobile phones than ever before. And because people just like to have a bit of time out from their busy, stressful lives, to just play games. Gaming gives you that endorphin hit. It’s creative. It has shareability. The social interaction — parents play with their kids, as well.
There’s this misconception that gamers are young kids in their mother’s basement on Atari, but the average gamer is 35 years old. They’re adults, they have jobs and they are immersed in playing. They might be casual gamers playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush, or they might be more hardcore gamers.
The technology within games has grown so much. Games are now way more sophisticated, interesting, fun and immersive than they were 10 years ago.
We now know that gamers are not just teenage boys in the basement. It’s everyone and it is a huge growth market. Why hasn’t that cut through to ad budgets and media mixes?
It’s an education thing. Brands and agencies need to be taken on a journey to really understand what’s available. Amazon has done a really good job educating the market with Twitch, but there’s so much more to gaming than just people simply watching streamers. The attention is there and the average person spends eight-and-a-half hours per week playing games. But the ad budgets haven’t gone there because brands have been nervous about testing the space, or they think that to get into gaming they have to build a game and do something really big.
But, as we say to our clients you can use your TVC video ad and make it run on a gaming network like Gameloft and you’ll get brand love, you’ll get interaction, you’ll get high click-through rates and high completion rates on your video. It’s testing and learning. The next step is gamifying creative to make it more interactive, which is what Scroll Media does well.
It’s taken a while for advertisers to catch up but we are starting to see more advertisers get involved. It’s no longer just the brands that you would associate with gaming, such as Mountain Dew and the manufacturers like Sony and PlayStation. Even banks are starting to sit up and consider the fact that their audience is playing games and that’s why they need to be there with them. It will still take another couple of years for it to really get going properly. But, it’s a bit like digital was 15 years ago — it’s a really exciting space and that’s why I’m loving it.
Do you think part of the problem might be that the people with the budgets aren’t gamers themselves and therefore can’t see the appeal?
Yeah, I do. But it takes one person in a marketing department to understand that all of their friends are gaming and how much time they spend gaming, themselves — that’s when they realise.
I speak to lots of people about this and they might say ‘My kids are gaming. I don’t really want to be pushing gaming.’ So there is still a perception issue. But it just takes studies and research to show the marketing departments that people aren’t watching as much TV as they were, they’re actually gaming with friends and family and spending time differently.
Which brands are the best in class when it comes to game advertising?
The snack food brands are really embracing it. Pizza Hut, for example, has done a really good job with interactive ads. Arnott’s Shapes have also really embraced gaming with great results.
We also presented a Pop-Tarts case study on an excellent campaign we ran with Kellogg’s and Zenith at iMedia recently. Kellogs wanted to reach people in a fun way and reach their audience that they weren’t reaching in mainstream media. They used Gameloft, and they received an average CTR of over three per cent and a video completion rate of 92 per cent. This drove sales of Pop-Tarts among that demo.
I’m also really excited to see banks, insurance and car companies coming across as well. With Gameloft, we see lots of international examples of car brands that are really leaning into gaming with videos, interactive ads and building mini-games, like Hyundai showing its attributes within car racing game Asphalt 9.
Movies and snack brands are leading the way at the moment but that will change.
What do people in advertising need to know before they start dipping their toes into advertising in gaming?
It’s good to understand that it’s a big audience — with over 66 per cent of Australians playing games— and that gaming is so complex. But don’t be afraid to start small and test and learn and spread your budget around. If you want to reach a hardcore gamer, focus on streaming. But if you want to target a casual gamer, mobile gaming might be right for you. Look at your budget and your target audience. You can target gamers, by genre, age and gender.
You don’t have to go straight into building a big gamified experience. Reward videos are a really great place to start, or interactive videos or interstitials. But just make sure that your creative speaks to the gamer because they love brands that speak to them in a fun way. Make your creative fun and relatable but don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, gamers do need insurance and credit cards!
So just test the medium and be prepared to see really high engagement rates because that’s what we’re seeing.
How would a marketer know where to draw the line between a hardcore and casual gamer and which their audience is?
Just look at who your target audience is and then we can tell you the numbers and target those users. Gameloft has over 4,400,000 monthly active users in Australia, so we have scale to target. But you could always test different creatives across different audiences and test engagement rates.
We also represent iion, which is a fantastic new gaming platform, that covers the whole breadth of gaming from streaming to immersive ads in Triple-A games to mobile gamers. In this space, we talk about in-game, away-from-the-game and around-the-game advertising, and iion covers the whole full-funnel approach.
In-game is your immersive ads and they are a brand awareness play. They’re fantastic for brand recall. Think billboards around football games or trackside signage in a racing game.
If you want clicks and engagement, then you should invest in-game. Around the game is where users are watching gamers — so think streaming. It’s just a matter of knowing who your target audience is and testing different creatives.
Scroll Media is also the rep for CNET and ZDNet in Australia and New Zealand. How did that partnership come around and why do they represent such a good opportunity for advertisers?
We have represented healthline.com for about four years now in Australia and New Zealand. A large US company owns healthline.com, and they thought we were doing such a great job of representing that publication, they asked us to represent CNET and ZDNet after they acquired those two titles from CBS Interactive. After the sale, there was no one doing the ad sales in Australia and New Zealand. That’s how we got the opportunity for exclusive representation in APAC.
ZDNet is amazing. Its audience is high-level IT decision-makers choosing servers, IT infrastructure, cybersecurity measures and development systems for their companies. ZDNet is one of the most trusted publications for those decision-makers and we have direct access to these users in their research and consideration phase. We can target them specifically when they’re about to make a decision on security or AIfor example.
CNET is a consumer electronic publication targeting early adopters who are researching new technology. They want to have the latest phones, hardware and wearables. They read CNET because it’s a trusted authority in the space. We provide brands with the ability to do homepage takeovers and other high-attention ad formats and also sponsored content and integrated campaigns across those premium publishers. You can’t get those formats on the open exchange.
We ran a campaign with Telstra in the very competitive cybersecurity space that focused on business security and targeted C-level decision-makers in the IT infrastructure space. The campaign made sure that readers were aware of the security challenges facing big organisations. That was a branding high-impact campaign with an expandable TVC across ZDNet. It’s a very important audience making big decisions about innovation in businesses.
Scroll Media’s growth hasn’t purely been down to gaming. What other verticals are proving profitable and which would you recommend others in the industry keep an eye on?
We have our own publisher monetisation platform so independent publishers can increase revenue programmatically with our adtech. Many of our independent publishers have seen double the revenue from using our tech platform via higher yields and data such as Supercars and Otago Daily Times.
We know that health and wellness are so important to people and we see a lot of pharma brands advertising across Healthline.com because they know they’re going to get targeted inventory — it’s not just random open exchange. They’re guaranteed to get sponsored content or formats with high attention and therefore higher brand awareness.
These audiences are further down the purchase funnel and you can really push your brand awareness metrics because the formats have really high attention. Whereas, with the open exchange, you don’t really know where your ads are running, you’re just retargeting people — which will be a problem in and of itself when the cookie finally crumbles. It’s better to use premium publishers who have actually got good first-party data and are big enough to get really good results. Plus, if you’re smart about it, you can get in front of your competitors by buying out the inventory.
Scroll Media is measured by Ipsos, which is fully endorsed by IAB Australia and our network reach is 8,452,000 unique users per month — so about a third of Australians — who are looking at our publishers. From a reach perspective, it’s very compelling and continuing to grow. Great news, but sadly it won’t give me much time to perfect my tennis swing!
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