‘Context not programmatic volumes key to curbing ineffective mobile ads’ says gaming publisher

Contextual targeting not programmatic-driven volumes are key to premiumising mobile media amid the flurry of ineffective ads being “blindly bought” through ad networks, claims gaming publisher Gameloft.

It is why the business opened its ad inventory direct to marketers four months ago and why it has recently started talking to them like a media owner rather than a publisher. Simply put, this shift means it no longer peddles a performance-based model based on cost-per acquisition, and instead stresses the ability to drive brand-led metrics now that it sells its own media.

It is a risky and somewhat old-fashioned approach at a time when publishers are opting to sell through networks or programmatically in an attempt to maximise their ad yield.

However, this means brands are more likely to buy blind from publishers, claimed Gameloft’s UK and Ireland country manager David Whitby. Instead, the company combines user data from either Facebook Connect or Google Play with data from its games to create what Whitby said is a "fairly good profile" with which it can sell.

To get brands onside, it is introducing a flurry of formats, from videos that play between levels to branded in-game events in the hope of giving its native media a different slant versus what’s on offer from other publishers. And while the ads are proving effective, with its videos getting upwards of 65 per cent for completed views, there is still a massive job to become an influential player in the mobile space.

“Every planner you talk to says mobile is a nightmare because they don’t know where their booked ads are running. If you didn’t know what TV ad slots you’d bought it would seem ridiculous but on mobile its considered acceptable right now for some reason,” said Whitby.

Another point Gameloft wants to win budgets on is the benefit of its remnant inventory. Now it sells direct, the media owner is unlikely to sell out its inventory at any given time, meaning those gamers playing its games won’t be bombarded with ads.

Whitby said: “We’d rather not sell ads then have low quality ads or ones that disrupt the out users. We want to sell media that compliments the gaming experience not distract gamers from it. By controlling the buy and sell process ourselves we can do that. As soon as we give that control to someone else we lose that control and we have no idea what’s going on.”

His comments veil Gameloft’s calculated gamble to resist the urge to follow its peers' move to programmatic and instead build a premium alternative that promises advertisers better guarantees on audience reach in an ever-splintering mobile space. Once mobile media has become standardised, then it would reconsider its strategy, particularly when it comes to programmatic trading.

“I think programmatic is interesting and is something we’re watching bit it’s a bit early for us. Everyone is talking about it but I don’t know how much is understood in terms of the trading platforms and also the data enrichment that is going on,” Whitby added.

“Media agencies are questioning why they would buy a gaming audience from us when they could do it from an ad network. The issue here is whether they can guarantee clients what they’re buying from an audience perspective as well as the types of formats.”

Different advertising models are being tested in every one of Gameloft’s 30 officers around the worldwide. But one model that won’t be trialled is in-app installs because it tends to be more suited to lower end banner formats – that priorities impressions and acquisitions – and perhaps more importantly the company doesn’t want to be promoting its competitors.

Moving forward, Gameloft will ramp up efforts to educate advertisers on the value of a gaming audience – no easy task given gamers are not as desirable as other audience groups.

“There’s still a lack of understanding about how mainstream gaming is,” added Whitby. “A big part of what we’re doing at the moment is explaining [to advertisers] that for a lot of people mobile phone gaming has replaced reading a free newspaper on the tube or its become a key part of their commute twice a day.”

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