Indy Khabra, CEO and co-founder of Livewire reflects on the development of game-based marketing in this opinion piece.
It is widely recognised that video game-based marketing is a rapidly growing channel with over 2.6 billion people playing and/or viewing across the globe in 2020. Brands have made the leap into gaming advertising over the decades, however with the stay-at-home, socially distanced circumstances of 2020, like many digital channels the gaming opportunity has exponentially matured in a compressed amount of time.
As data and technology innovation continues to be integrated into the channel, proactive and digitally savvy brands are quickly pivoting to taking advantage of connecting with the hyper-engaged gaming audience.
Keeping up with shifts in the Attention Economy
In-game advertising diverges from the path of traditional and digital channels. It’s multi-demographic, multi-platform, natively enables active engagement, requiring a specialised strategy to deliver a highly immersive and personalised experience.
According to IGEA 2020 research, the average daily total of play for Australians of all ages who play video games is 81 minutes. To further break it down, in Australia:
- Working age adults play on average 83 minutes a day,
- Retirement age adults play on average 59 minutes a day,
- Male video game players play on average for 89 minutes, and
- Female video game players play on average for 71 minutes, representing 46% of video game players.
Leisure activities and social time have been redefined with computers, gaming consoles, handheld games, mobile phones and tablets providing widespread access to online streaming platforms. Attention is shifting away from traditional channels as hard to reach ‘cord cutters’ are severing ties with traditional media and digital natives proactively avoid ads.
Gaming presents an increasingly fruitful opportunity to interact with the next generation of customers when combined with the power of data and technology. The in-game experience requires a participant’s full attention – eyeballs scanning every part of the screen and analysing the images to continue play. This presents an enormous opportunity to capture attention, but it must be met with the right creative and context for the medium.
People are accustomed to seeing ads, and younger generations even appreciate a well-crafted message for new and relevant products or services. Within the context of a game, brand experiences must take advantage of capturing that attention in the moment without being intrusive, all whilst providing information that is relevant to that particular user’s profile and adding value to the potential consumer.
Context switching requires a tailored, cohesive approach
Gaming consumers will not stand for anything less than a highly curated, connected and engaging experience across online, mobile and console platforms. Success requires a unique and authentic user experience for this new interactive channel.
This is not a simple channel. It’s not as easy as rip-and-replacing existing media budgets into in-game ad products or running the same creative resized but not fit for purpose. Instead, brands must carefully consider a diverse audience and a new generation of users to communicate in the way they prefer.
Realising there is no one-size-fits all approach, in-game advertising must have an interdependence with the overall gaming strategy.
Additionally, there’s a new psychology that must be understood in order to bridge the awareness gap and create lifetime value and loyal customers. Brands must create new, authentic engagements that mimic preferences, and the way users interact with the real world. By harnessing the power of data and technology, marketers now have the tools available to fully understand and connect within the game experience.
By nature, in-game media provides a brand safe environment able to adhere to privacy policies and local regulations with logged in, verified users and predetermined game scenarios.
A fast-growing opportunity for content and digital marketing
We know gaming is central to the culture of modern society, demonstrated repeatedly through global daily play times and the fact that streamers and content creators are overtaking traditional celebrities and sports stars as heroes.
From politicians announcing critical policy to individuals campaigning for a cause to influencers promoting a movie premier, the channel has taken on a life of its own beyond the game. Even prominent actors are passing on Hollywood for opportunities to have their likeness represented in this alternate reality.
In 2020, gaming exceeded the global revenue of the film, TV and digital music sectors, showing its strength as a platform for marketing with consistently high engagement. Gaming is now a part of everyday living.
Many gamers don’t self-identify as gamers, it’s simply a new norm for social activity, entertainment or a way to spend leisure time. With the prerequisite to play being a mobile signal or Wi-Fi connection, gaming has scaled and exponentially increased reach across geographies, demographics, and psychographics – potentially all engaging simultaneously from a distance.
The ability to connect with the right gamer, at the right time with the right content is the next wave of marketing and advertising. The key to success is understanding the behaviours and motivations of different players in the moment. Sophistication of data, automation and technology is helping brands connect more effectively with audiences with the right message.
Despite the global surge in mobile, online and console gaming, the opportunity remains largely untapped as we rapidly move through the early adoption phase in understanding and guiding the right principals across in-game marketing. Brands relying on traditional media planning must shift to a contextualised approach and take a first mover advantage to create consumer trust and connection as the space evolves and grows.
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