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Gaming the system: why marketers are underestimating gaming


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

November 6, 2020 | 6 min read

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Despite the huge amount of time spent across gaming, from console to casual mobile gaming, the understanding and investment from marketers is still in early stages.


Gaming the system: why marketers are underestimating gaming as a marketing tool

To help marketers get up to speed, Adcolony and The Drum brought together leading marketers to battle it out against each other in a game show-style panel at The Drum Digital Summit.

Ahead of the session, The Drum caught up with Adcolony’s senior vice president APAC, Tom Simpson, to unpick some of the key trends and misunderstood insights about gaming and advertising.

Why has gaming become such an important focus for Adcolony?

Consumers spend as much time playing mobile games as using social media, around 35% of total screen time - this has been the case for years. During the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase of 48% in consumers gaming daily, and this has been a genuine tipping point for the adoption of gaming as a channel by many brands and marketers.

Brands and marketers are now keen to lean into and maximise the gaming opportunity, and as one of the largest gaming-focused advertising platforms and a business really focused on bringing brands and consumers together in gaming, we’re keen to help.

You are on quite a big education drive around this, where are the gaps in terms of industry understanding?

The persistent myths around gaming hold back many marketers from getting involved. The first and most persistent myth is “Girls Don’t Game”. Gaming is actually a very even 50/50 male-female split in most markets. Honestly, the idea that “Girls Don’t Game” is a toxic stereotype - it’s 2020, and as an industry, we need to do better. At AdColony, we always say “Girls Got Game”!

Secondly, the idea that only Gen Z game when, actually, there are as many Boomers as Gen XYZs in gaming.

Finally, the perception that it’s a lower socio-economic demographic is common, when actually high net worth individuals are more likely to play mobile games than the average person.

How can this be better plugged?

We see gaming as a channel, and we anticipate agencies and brands building out gaming teams in the same way they have historically built out social teams. This will help plug a lot of gaps.

More broadly, as an industry, we can spend more time focusing on education, and building frameworks for planning, execution and measurement to help formalise and professionalise the space.

What’s the real opportunity if this education gap is plugged?

Gaming will eat the internet, similar to the way social media ate the internet over the past 15 years, in that all we currently do online - shopping, entertainment, socialising - will be contained within gaming, and that’s where we’ll spend our online time. This is what futurists call the metaverse. So I always think it’s bigger than an opportunity, it’s unavoidable, it’s everything.

However, to simplify it for marketers, gaming has as much reach as social media but is a much cleaner and higher attention environment. Shift the money you currently spend on Facebook or YouTube to gaming, for improved media performance, better brand results, and more sales.

What tips would you give marketers looking at investing in gaming advertising?

Think about gaming as two separate opportunities:

Keep it simple - just buy ads! Gaming in general (and in-app mobile gaming especially) is a high reach, brand-safe channel to deliver video or display at scale, so just transfer what you already do on YouTube or Facebook i.e. buying targeted ads. This is a super simple, instant way to capture the gaming opportunity.

Go deep - If you have time to dedicate, the possibilities in gaming are endless. It’s sport, music, social media and TV all rolled into one. You can execute via gaming partnerships, esports sponsorships, interactive rewarded video, AI, native in-game ads (think OOH in virtual worlds!) streaming and more. In a similar way to social media, if you deep dive, you will need to demonstrate an affinity with the interests of an audience that more closely identifies with gaming. This means really defining your brand purpose around gaming, and why you’re investing. It’s a time-heavy investment, but rewarding if you’ve identified it’s the right thing for your marketing strategy. We’ve seen many fashion brands deep-diving into gaming, they see it as a cultural originator in the same way they saw street fashion 20-30 years ago.

Sign up to watch the session for free as catch up. The panelists include Pete Mitchell, global comms and media lead at Reckitt Benckiser, Vivian Yeung, consultant/market SPOC for transformation and change management, Singapore at GroupM, Itamar Benedy, co-founder and CEO at Anzu and Tom Simpson, senior vice president at Adcolony. The session went live on Friday 13 November.

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