With blockbuster 2020 games including The Last Of Us Part 2, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War outgrossing most Hollywood films, gaming has officially become the world’s biggest form of entertainment. In fact, the total market value for gaming increased by 19.6% to £130.3bn in 2020.
Last year, the mobile gaming industry particularly soared, grossing $77.2bn. Advertisers are getting in the game: a study by SocialPeta showed the total global level of mobile game advertisers increased by 9% in 2020, with everything pointing to further growth in 2021. Mobile, therefore, presents a massive opportunity for brands and advertisers to tap into – provided they do so authentically.
A growing channel
Vincent Tessier, MoPub’s brand and agency lead for EMEA, says: “With such a diverse audience playing mobile games today, advertisers, from both B2B or B2C backgrounds, are increasingly catching on to the opportunities presented by this emerging channel and how best to reach those vast audiences.”
According to Clare Chapman, data agency Essence’s head of media for EMEA, lockdown has only accelerated interest in gaming, as brands subsequently start to make it more of a central advertising channel. “The first lockdown brought new audiences to mobile gaming and saw existing gamers playing more frequently and for longer. Gaming not only passed the time but became a way to connect with people – both in the home and beyond.”
She continues: “Marketers could not have failed to notice the storming popularity of family-friendly titles such as Animal Crossing and how some quick-thinking brands jumped on board. So, in addition to accelerating the growth and diversification of gaming audiences, lockdown shifted perceptions of the types of people who play and the kind of environments and opportunities available to brands.”
How to create successful in-game advertising
In-game ads in mobile games drove $3.96bn in revenue in 2020, according to eMarketer, which predicts this number to rise to $4.36bn by the end of this year. MoPub’s Tessier says the brands that will succeed with in-game advertising are the ones that make sure they provide an authentic experience for gamers. “The fundamental difference here is understanding whether your audience is passive versus active,” he explains.
“A gamer is active and is totally engaged in the gaming experience. As a publisher, the last thing you want to do is interrupt the user experience that you have been hard at work building. As an advertiser, you want to ensure that your ad makes sense in the context of the game, which is where using the right ad formats comes into play.”
Using video formats as in-game rewards
Video is an advertisement format that performs best for in-game advertising, according to Tessier, who says it can be used as a reward for players, which in turn raises brand affinity. “Rewarded video ads are engaging, popular formats that offer consumers a bonus for choosing to watch them, such as extra lives, points and virtual goods. They often command high average eCPMs and are an attractive format for both advertisers and publishers because it means they get to essentially sponsor a special in-game moment.”
He explains further: “The gamer has the choice and click to watch the ad, and the value exchange is very clear and accepted. The brand will help the player reach new heights in the game and this is perceived as a positive experience. What other ad experiences can say that?”
Essence’s Chapman agrees with MoPub’s advice, crediting successful gaming advertising campaigns with following one of the following two templates: “Broadly, we perceive that gaming touchpoints can be used in two ways – either to drive incremental reach across standard display or video campaigns or to drive deeper connections between brand and gamer.
“In the first instance, elements such as share of screen and receptivity are crucial, in order to be noticed but not annoy. Working with partners to build content that adds value to gamer experiences is a good way in.”
Utilizing the right partner
For advertisers looking to enter mobile gaming for the first time, Chapman says it is imperative to work with partners like MoPub that offer delivery, measurement and governance in the same way a brand would expect from their usual digital activity.
“You must apply the same standards and expectations, including third-party verification,” she says. “Specialist SSPs, like MoPub, make it incredibly easy for marketers to both experiment and scale across gaming experiences through partnerships with the major DSPs that brands are already using.
“Brands can then use their existing buying platforms to tap into gaming partners at scale across a wide range of formats that suit different objectives. Running all of their activity from a single platform also makes it easier to run experiments and prove the value of gaming inventory, which is key to driving further investment.”
As gaming becomes more and more of a force, Tessier says MoPub will be there to help advertisers make the transition into the mobile gaming space and utilize programmatic opportunities. He concludes: “MoPub is a full stack monetization platform that includes an ad server which allows us to build one of the leading mobile app header bidding solutions: Advanced Bidding. From a supply path perspective, if you are looking for the most direct path to the largest source of gaming inventory, MoPub is the trusted partner for you.
“We are now investing more in supporting demand partners, advertisers, and agencies in particular, with a dedicated team to bring top notch service and guidance as to how to leverage our massive scale and capabilities. Gaming, and mobile gaming in particular, is only going to wrestle more and more ad dollars away from traditional channels, and we’re excited to help guide our clients towards even more success within gaming.”