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Can mobile gaming offer a better value exchange for consumers and brands?

Ad-blocking is once again igniting heated debate in the industry. Last month, the IAB has revealed that more than one in five British adults now use ad-blockers, whilst delegates at Mobile World Congress watched controversy erupt on stage as Google and Yahoo accused ad-blocking software company Shine of breaking down the relationship between advertisers and consumers. The public spat also follows in the wake of Three mobile’s decision to introduce ad-blocking across its UK and Italian networks, which has drawn widespread criticism from those concerned about the future for advertising on mobile.

There are now more than 198 million active ad-block users around the world. In spite of this growing trend, mobile is proving increasingly important for brands looking to engage with consumers. This is especially relevant as more content and commerce moves to smartphone and tablet devices. In fact, the IAB has also found that 70 per cent of people ordinarily use a connected device whilst watching TV; advertising needs to move from one screen to another.

The pressure for brands and advertisers is focused on how they can utilise creative ways of getting content in front of consumers on mobile, and have them interact with it in a more memorable way. Advertising that is integrated within a mobile game offers a unique creative opportunity to address this. Brands can offer a tangible benefit to the players, which increases engagement and positive sentiment towards the campaign. Game content is – by its nature – interactive, creative and entertaining; it is an ideal partner medium for advertising.

It is a fair trade off for players as well; 75 per cent of gamers are willing to accept advertising in free apps or online games if it meant gaining access to exclusive and interesting content. Quality in-game advertising that puts the player experience at its heart, and which is seamlessly integrated with the game environment, is welcomed by players as non-intrusive – unlike some other forms of mobile advertising which could be blocked.

In-game advertising gives brands a number of creative options when it comes to running campaigns. Brand mini-games and sponsored events, for instance, offer a powerful native experience and the biggest opportunity for creativity through interactive experiences that combine a wholly-owned brand environment, brought to life through gameplay. Players in turn appreciate the creative application of advertising in-game and are happy to get involved with the likes of rewarded video advertising, opting to watch ads through to completion in return for an in-game prize.

The global growth in mobile gaming has also led to a change in what was once recognised as the ‘gamer’ audience. IAB research from 2014 showed that females accounted for over half of people who had played some form of video game in the UK across a six month period, whilst older age brackets were playing more games than their younger compatriots. In the time since, this will only have increased. This is all great news for brands, which can target specific demographics through game genre and first party data, creating in-game content with the most effective ad formats to drive campaign success.

As new mobile technology – such as VR and AR – continues to develop, so too will gaming formats and creative campaigns. The horizon has never looked brighter for those advertisers who understand the potential offered by in-game content. However, in a world where consumers are taking steps to avoid advertising on mobile, it will become more and more important to create content that they actually value and which works as part of consumers’ engagement with content on mobile, and not against it.

Nicolas Pochez is UK managing director at Gameloft