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The biggest missed opportunity in digital advertising? Why brands need to get better at in-game advertising

In-app advertising remains one of the biggest unexploited opportunities in digital marketing, according to John Egan, head of demand at MoPub, a Twitter-owned ad exchange.

He made the point during a video interview with The Drum, which sought to explain how in-app advertising is emerging as a key channel, which can help brands to become a more significant part of consumers' daily digital lives thanks to its demographic reach and significant time spend on the channel. "It's essentially playing a bigger role in a user's digital day," he said.

“If you have a broad audience and a lot of people spending time on a particular channel, that’s a pretty strong foundation to work from,” he added.

Mobile Consumption Accelerates Under Lockdown

MoPub,which has a reach of over 1.5bn unique devices, has seen existing trends —such as the amount of time spent daily on mobile devices overtaking time spent watching television — accelerate during 2020 thanks to lockdown media consumption habits.

Mobile gaming downloads reached their highest ever levels during the first week of April as lockdowns across the globe took hold (The Drum, 2020), furthering the case for marketers to consider mobile gaming as a channel.

“This year, a lot of the trends we saw slowly bubbling up over time really accelerated as we all began working from home,” Egan said.

“In the past, we saw a slow and steady amount of time being spent on mobile devices and it had just eclipsed TV. But as lockdown came in, the amount of time spent in-app on mobile accelerated, as people started spending more time at home. It seemed to us that people were turning to mobile devices to stay informed, to stay connected, and to be entertained. That has remained the case throughout the course of this year.”

Mobile Gaming Remains Largely Untapped

MoPub believes that, while more brands are investing in in-app advertising as a distinct channel, it’s still undervalued by most marketers despite mobile usage continuing to accelerate.

What’s particularly undervalued, Egan said, is advertising within mobile gaming. “There is still a stubborn resistance to include mobile gaming as a viable part of upper funnel marketing,” he explained.

“But if you exclude gaming, you exclude significant amounts of reach and some of the most valuable ad formats within the mobile channel. In order to use mobile in-app well, gaming needs to be part of your inventory mix.”

Plus, the diversity of mobile users is reflected in gaming. As cited in a recent MoPub article, the average age of a mobile gamer is 36 years old and almost one third of mobile gamers are older than 45. In contrast, only 14.2% belong to Gen Z. More than half (53%) of internet users aged 45-54 play games on their smartphone.

Mobile gaming’s gender split is very even, with women comprising 51% of mobile gamers (as cited by MoPub, 2020). A closer look at female mobile gamers’ habits reveals that they represent a potentially lucrative opportunity for brands wishing to advertise in-app: they play for 25% longer than men, are more likely to spend in-game (4.5% compared to 3.3%) and play more often too (43% play more than five times a week compared to 38% of men) (as cited by MoPub, 2020).

Major Brand Wins

Egan added that a number of buying platforms, including The Trade Desk, Twitter, and LinkedIn have seen positive results from further expansion into in-game advertising.

“We have seen a number of interesting advertisers and social platforms which didn’t use gaming much before start to interact with it this year and really see positive results. One of the biggest success stories for us is through the LinkedIn ad network. This year, they tried gaming as a test and found a ton of success. If a business-to-business platform is able to make mobile gaming work for them, then it can play a role in the campaign of any upper funnel advertiser.”

Egan emphasized that for brands to fully reap the benefits of in-App advertising, marketers need to understand that it’s a channel in its own right. “Mobile in-App advertising is a different environment with different formats and it can be used in a different way to deliver meaningful results,” he said. “Getting more value out of that is what MoPub is here to do.”

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