Long Read - What's holding gaming advertising back?

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 11 January 2024
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.

Part two of a three part series. Part one is here. Part three is here.

If there’s such unrealised opportunity for advertisers in the gaming space, more agencies are adding it to their plans and gamers themselves are responding positively to brands integrating their offerings into their hallowed online spaces, why has gaming advertising not seen much interest or cut through up to this point - and what can be done to increase that?

IAB’s Gaming Advertising State of the Nation report found that the top five barriers for increasing investment in game advertising were brand safety (47%); measuring campaign success (36%); brand suitability (36%); evidence of effectiveness for brand and/or ROI (34%); and how it can work in combination with other media (32%).

Education is key for involvement

One of the big blockers raised by the agencies AdNews spoke to as to why advertisers and brands aren’t getting involved in gaming advertising was simply a lack of education and understanding around how impactful gaming advertising can be.

You Know Media’s Aaron Pearce says that an important element for success is recognition for media-based and marketing agency businesses in the space that a rising tide lifts all ships. 

There is no shortage of education happening in the space, every person and their (insert any animal here) knows now that 80%+ of the population games, but what is important is customising that education/information for who you are talking to, so it is understood, utilised effectively and then passed onto key decision makers,” he says.

“It feels at the moment that brand teams can have analysis paralysis through too much gaming landscape information. We need well educated brave brand marketeers in that second/third wave to come through with confidence, that will make 2024 an even bigger year.”

InMobi’s Jaclyn Hadida says that education is key to alleviate legacy concerns around brand suitability, measurement, and audience. 

“At InMobi, we’ve discovered that once a brand understands the diversity of gaming audiences, the long dwell times in gaming environments and the robust brand safety protections in place, hesitancy is converted into enthusiasm,” she says.

Scott Cleaver

No Standing’s Scott Cleaver (pictured right) says that along with education - “understanding the gaming culture and the audience is critical for brands to create campaigns that resonate with gamers” - advertisers require robust metrics to gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns. 

“As such, developing advanced analytics tools to measure in-game advertising performance will be crucial,” he says.

“Sharing case studies and success stories of in-game advertising can also serve as powerful testimonials to encourage hesitant advertisers to invest in the gaming space.”

Azerion’s Georgia Woodburne says that education and demonstrating ROI (through data and case studies) are as important to tackle to drive more interest into gaming advertising as diversification of audience targeting and brand safety measures.

“Leveraging the diverse gaming audiences and improving targeting capabilities can make gaming advertising more appealing,” she says.

A shift in perception

Although the enduring image of what a ‘gamer’ is to most being either a teenage boy locked away in their room, wasting their weekends away much to their parent’s chagrin, or a young, single male who spends more time on his console or computer than out socialising with friends, the reality is rather different to the preconceived notion that marketers may have. 

The Australia Plays study from IGEA shows that in today’s world, gamers can comprise everything from children, teenagers and young adults through to retirees, with females more involved in gaming than males in some demographics, especially in those 65 and over.

We Are Social’s Suzie Shaw says that to attract more advertisers to gaming advertising, there needs to be a shift in perception around the audience and the way they’re engaging with gaming. 

“It’s not only a popular pastime for over 12 million Australians - in many ways, it’s the new frontier of social, offering a prime and immersive entry point for brands aiming to tap into a large, diverse and engaged community,” she says.

we-are-social-_-suzie-shaw.jpgShaw (pictured right) tells AdNews that marketers need to get closer to the space to deeply understand it and effectively connect with gamers. 

“Gaming is far from a homogenous vertical and niches within the community can be very tribal; brands that fail to understand and authentically align with their passion can be dismissed or even called out and cancelled!” she says. 

“Working with a specialist agency can help them develop strategies that will effectively engage the audience and drive business results. The focus should always be on finding ways to genuinely add value to the gaming community and enhancing their experience, creating a meaningful and valuable connection.”

IAB’s research found that while brand awareness or perception was still the most sought-after objective of decision makers working in agencies or brands with experience or intention to buy game advertising and marketing, the 72% of respondents who said that was the objective of their game advertising and marketing activities over the past year was down from 85% in 2022. 

On the other hand, both purchase/action intent (up to 57% from 21% in 2022) and sales or conversions (up to 38% from 15% in 2022) were notably increased.

Matt Lawton, MD of Five by Five Global, says advertisers need to start thinking about gaming as a media channel rather than in terms of audience stereotypes.  

“The major game publishers post significant revenues and can be fiercely defensive of their IP which advertisers need to adjust for,” he tells AdNews.

“Successful games businesses achieved their success by steadfastly putting the interests of the player ahead of anything else. Brands need to respect that and work with it rather than assume it’ll work like a regular partnership.”


IGEA’s summary of play for 18–34 years

UM’s Liam Wilson said due to the lucrative audiences of gamers being stereotyped as young male teens who play Fortnite on their Xbox, part of the challenge is educating strategists, planners, and CMOs on the world of gaming.

"To see how your brand can add value to gamers, the very first step is to understand the audience,” he says. 

“This crucial step allows brands to identify their audience's culture, habits, when they game, and how they game, whether it be mobile, console, or PC.

“From here, brands can start exploring which gaming titles gamers play and understand the lure behind the games, and who gamers hang out with. Only then can you see how your brand can add value to the gamer and tap into communities.”


IGEA’s summary of play for 35-64 years

The Pistol’s Rachel Fyfe agrees that building out demographic profiles illustrating the true diversity of the gaming audience can help advertisers see the potential reach, but strengthening the value proposition is also required too. 

“Game advertisements can provide a more immersive, interactive, and memorable experience than what traditional ads offer,” she says. 

“There is a lot of room for improvement for game developers to understand ad-serving which will naturally improve the user experience and integration of games. If this knowledge gap isn’t addressed quickly there will be backlash from gamers and in-game advertising will lose traction. By reinforcing this value proposition, advertisers can better understand the strategic advantage over conventional advertising mediums.

“The gaming industry, being already a mainstream form of entertainment, provides a fertile ground for advertisers to tap into new audience segments, create more meaningful interactions, and leverage data for targeted advertising. The key takeaway? Keep the quality of the game experience at its core and opt for non-disruptive formats that are contextually relevant."


IGEA’s summary of play for 65+ years

TotallyAwesome’s Youth-First Digital Insights for Asia-Pacific 2023 revealed that gaming is characterised by a young demographic (93% of those 5-18 are gaming) and a rapidly increasing adoption of mobile technology.

TotallyAwesome’s Gary Fung says that as brands seek to delve deeper into reaching this audience, they need to recognise it isn't just about reaching a larger or incremental audience; it's about culture, preferences, and identity. 

“Kids and teens are gaming to feel more connected to their friends (52%), to play different roles and experience new things (54%) and because they get more options to express their ideal self (40%),” he tells AdNews.

“Brands that develop a deeper understanding of these drivers and embrace a localised and focused approach will unlock the upsides of investing in gaming advertising.  They’ll also enjoy the benefits of engaging with a youth audience where they are and by allowing them to engage with their brand while young, they can build long term brand loyalty.”

Totally Awesome

TotallyAwesome’s Youth-First Digital Insights for Asia-Pacific 2023 

The untapped potential of creators 

Jordan Barclay says that “massively untapped potential” remains in gaming creators, especially those part of media networks such as TBNR Productions and Spawnpoint Media. 

“Unlike single influencers who are not businesses, these media networks understand the importance of mission, values and traditional marketing and have the resources to provide bespoke and high quality material; yet at the same time have the genuine and authentic deep understanding of the audience that social media influencers have become so coveted for,” he says.

“This enables these networks to inform the product decisions for metaverse experiences, assist in the creation of the content, and then also promote the content; with a singular and focused creative vision across the entire project that doesn’t get diluted along the way across multiple agencies and contractors.” 

Data and technology working hand in hand

Half Dome’s Euan Macdonald says some of the key challenges the media agency is discussing with clients are advanced measurement solutions and the use of owned data, so lean-in from the gaming space into these challenges will help drive interest amongst advertisers. 

“Bespoke measurement solutions will allow advertisers to better understand how users engage with ads in formats and spaces that don't tend to align with traditional advertising channels,” he says. 

“With the deprecation of cookies, brands are looking to make the most of their owned data, so further development of first party data integrations in the gaming space will drive more interest.”

Matt Alchin

Five by Five Global’s client director Matt Alchin (pictured right) says that gaming advertising still feels a bit juvenile compared to the other types of advertisement options available - “somewhat ironically, gaming advertising is still missing a digital layer”. 

“It is subject to the same issues as old school TV and radio advertisements, in that it feels like throwing money in a pit and hoping that you get enough broad stroke exposure to make it worth it,” he says. 

“New solutions hitting the market like iion to serve as the DSP for games will be a great step forward in being able to market to specific audiences within games, rather than the current spray and pray approach.  

Giuseppe Martoriello, the co-founder of iion, says providing transparent, data-driven measurement metrics to showcase the impact of gaming advertising campaigns - whether through attention metrics, brand uplift studies or better ROI tracking - will help get more brands involved in the growing space, as will simplifying the complex landscape of game advertising by offering more solutions that cater to different ad formats.

“Developing creative and non-disruptive ad formats that seamlessly integrate into the gaming experience, building partnerships with gaming influencers and confronting the issue of brand safety head-on and actively working to improve the perception of the gaming industry will all help to enhance engagement and build trust among advertisers,” he says.

Havas Media’s Virginia Hyland says that ease of entry to engage is an important consideration as the gaming environment is one channel of many that brands need to advertise within to ensure they drive sales growth. 

“This means that it cannot be onerous on a brand to create new content at a high cost. Gaming companies can help create easy templates and creative units that work within the gaming environment to allow ease to transact to attract new brands to the space,” she says.

Mark Murray

SmartMedia Tech’s Mark Murray (pictured right) says advertisers need access to tech solutions that can not only develop brand-safe programmatic ad programs, but they also need access to platforms that can seamlessly integrate campaigns that drive engagement and loyalty all while collecting audience data.

“Advertisers need to understand the profitability and power that in-game advertising carries,” he tells AdNews.

“Additionally, user-generated content and influencer marketing will continue to play a pivotal role in gaming advertising, which advertisers can capitalise on.

“Advertisers have a great opportunity to extend their brand experience, particularly through mobile where gamification and augmented experiences can drive high engagement, change behaviour and drive loyalty. Not surprisingly, gamification appeals to gamers and the more they benefit from the exchange the more engagement with the advertising.”

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