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Marketing Brand Strategy IAB

Overheard at IAB Playfronts: ‘Content is king, but distribution is God’


By Webb Wright | NY reporter

March 9, 2023 | 7 min read

Throughout the two-day event in Manhattan, gaming and marketing experts took to the stage to celebrate gaming’s huge mainstream popularity and discuss in-game partnership opportunities.

Playstation controller

The second annual International Advertising Bureau PlayFronts conference was held this week / Unsplash

The second annual International Advertising Bureau (IAB) PlayFronts conference kicked off yesterday morning in midtown Manhattan. Since then, attendees have flooded into the main presenting room in droves, eager to hear about some of the latest innovations and advertising opportunities arising from the gaming sector.

There has been an air of buoyancy and exuberance during the event. Multiple presenters have emphasized the growing size and scale of gaming, which now exceeds both Hollywood and music in terms of global revenue.

Zoe Soon, vice-president of the IAB’s Experience Center, stepped up to the stage yesterday morning to deliver a keynote speech. Wearing a two-piece suit covered in colorful images of flowers, Soon queued up a rendering of king Arthur on the stage’s large digital screen, before referencing the work of author Joseph Campbell. “Gaming is the mythology of the digital generation,” she said. ”[Games allow us to] step into the hero’s journey.”

She then shared a quote from Netflix’s fourth quarter 2022 investor letter: “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO.”

Indeed, gaming is a much larger and more lucrative industry than many people realize. More than 215mn Americans – roughly 66% of the population – “play video games regularly,” according to a 2022 report from the Entertainment Software Association. Moreover, the market value of the in-game advertising industry is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10% through 2028, reaching a projected market value of approximately $12.35bn by that same year, per a 2022 study conducted by Market Vantage Research.

Gaming is also more present in mainstream culture than ever before, as evidenced by the popularity of HBO’s The Last of Us and the cumulative live hours that Twitch users spent watching live-streams on the platform in 2022 (around 21bn).

And though the metaverse - a vaguely defined term which in its popular definition encapsulates virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and online multiplayer gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite – has been backburnered by many brands in recent months, it emerged as an important theme at this year’s PlayFronts event.

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Here are some other insightful quotes from experts heard over the past two days:

Zoe Soon, vice-president, Experience Center, IAB

“[The metaverse is causing us to] fundamentally reimagine identity and self-expression.”

“The gaming industry is an entertainment juggernaut, with an audience as diverse as any other.”

Diana Song, product marketer, gaming, Samsung Ads

“When gamers aren’t gaming, they’re watching ad-supported streaming content for almost two hours each day.”

Phil Hong, senior director, games production, Niantic

“New entrants [to the gaming sector] are going to have a tough time acquiring users … content is king, but distribution is God. Another way to phrase that is that distribution is queen, but she wears the pants.”

Glenn Chin, senior director, NBA All-World, Niantic

“We’re building off of existing behavior … that’s where we can come in and deliver experiences. We’re not trying to change experience, we’re just augmenting it.”

Arda Genç, cofounder and chief executive officer, Livad Technologies

“Gaming is about community … creators in gaming are building authentic, hyper-enriched communities … this is a great opportunity for brands to be present where culture happens.”

“Possible [gaming] activations are limited only by imagination.”

KokoNataaa, streamer and gaming personality

“Your community is a reflection of yourself. My mission is to make a safe space for those who are marginalized and people in general.”

Bobby Wells, chief executive officer, AdArcade

"We're all excited about the metaverse ... [but] if you're a brand that really wants to reach people today ... then mobile gaming is the place to be ... [this space] provides an opportunity for brands to rise above the media clutter."

Tommy Huthansel, vice-president, director partnerships, Dentsu Gaming

"You're missing out on a large piece of culture if you're not embracing gaming."

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