Esports Gaming In-game Advertising

What gaming and the metaverse mean for the beauty industry



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March 10, 2022 | 9 min read

The ‘average gamer’ has evolved far beyond the anti-social teenage stereotype that pop culture so desperately clings onto

45% of gamers are now female, and the average age sits comfortably at 34 years old. In only two years, the percentage of gamers aged 55-64 has also grown by a whopping 32%. Clearly, the face of gaming is changing and with it so are the opportunities for brands that are taking an innovative approach to their advertising strategies.

Data from the consumer insights platform GWI tells us that 39% of beauty and cosmetics fans enjoy playing video games and 22% enjoy esports. In addition to this, beauty fans who game are more receptive to advertising and appreciate the quality of luxury products, being 52% more likely than the general population to buy the brands they’ve seen advertised, and 43% more likely to buy the premium versions of these products.

An increasing number of brands, particularly those in the beauty industry, are waking up to the fact that with a growing number of people (and especially women) streaming, viewing and playing video games, the benefits of tapping into this audience cannot and should not be ignored.

Beauty gets its game face on

Recent years have seen beauty brands utilize video games in a variety of ways to appeal to their respective user bases. Whether that was by activating within a game (like Paco Rabanne with Bidstack), launching gaming-inspired products in real-life, such as MAC’s Honor of Kings inspired collection, or bringing out their own video games like Estée Lauder, the beauty industry has finally begun to realize the full potential of this largely untapped audience.

Lockdown icon Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a hotspot for gaming activations as beauty brands flocked to the wildly popular Switch game during pandemic restrictions. From the luxury of high-end virtual make-up from Givenchy, to Gillette Venus’ inclusive line of 250 body types and skin representations, a variety of brands looked to capitalize on the game’s worldwide success.

Fans of beauty products that play video games are more receptive to advertising, being 52% more likely than the general population to buy the brands they’ve seen advertised. Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels.

Esports teams are the stars of male beauty

Men’s grooming is booming and it would be remiss of us to not mention this expanding market here too. Brands looking to make an impact in the Chinese market were amongst the first to capitalize on the connection between the large esports and male beauty audiences. In 2019, Estée Lauder sponsored Invictus Gaming’s League of Legends team running a hashtag campaign which was viewed in excess of 86 million times. L’Oréal’s Biotherm collaborated with esports organization QGhappy and popular live streamer Feng Timo to create a gaming event which was live streamed across Chinese social network Weibo; this included a video featuring Feng’s commentary which continues to accumulate views (more than 441,000 at the last count).

Elsewhere in the world, in 2020 Australian esports organization Chiefs Esports Club partnered with L’Oréal Men Expert, providing giveaways and special events for fans. Seemingly satisfied with the reception from the esports audience, L’Oréal Men Expert returned this year to forge a large-scale global partnership with London-based esports organization Fnatic, who also count Asos and BMW amongst their other partners, to name just two. This deal includes a variety of content activations from both sides, kicking off with a #PrepToPlay hashtag campaign and a content series.

NFTs are enriching the relationship between brands and consumers

NFTs are steadily becoming a new way for customers to buy into their favourite brands. These digital tokens can provide a creative outlet, serve as loyalty cards, unlock exclusive content or simply open up a new revenue stream.

NARS has jumped into the growing trend, experimenting with their own digital collectible, which also doubled as a key to give customers access to products in real life. Dina Fierro, vice president of global digital strategy and social engagement at NARS believes that NFTs “empower a deeper connection with NARS' highest-value and most passionate consumers.” It seems others agree as Givenchy celebrated Pride month by minting 1952 copies of digital artwork in aid of the Le MAG Jeunes association, and fellow NFT fan E.l.f. Cosmetics’ chief brand officer Gayitri Budhraja described the token as “a new way for super fans to be a part of the brands that they love.”

Paco Rabanne, the leading fashion house and fragrance brand, partnered with Starcom Worldwide and Bidstack to launch a branded virtual reality challenge in the VR game Rezzil Player 22.

Brands are using the metaverse to reinvent the holiday season

Compared to previous years, consumers looked to spend more in the 2021 holiday season, with a clear uplift in intent to purchase beauty products - 26% planned to gift others and 31% expected to gift themselves beauty products.

Luxury beauty brand Valde launched a limited Divine Collection which saw each of their 34 hand-engraved quartz lipsticks paired with an NFT in support of Latinx entrepreneurs. Beauty x NFT pairings were also present at Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Double 11 Metaverse Art Exhibition for Single’s Day fronted by virtual influencer Ayayi. Brands supplied NFTs alongside the purchase of their physical products, such as Kiehl’s offering their Ultra Face Cream coupled with digital artwork featuring their skeleton mascot.

Virtual shopping experiences were also popular, with Charlotte Tilbury advocating for digital stores as they launched their ‘Shop With Friends’ feature in time for the 2021 holiday season. Users could explore the three sparkle-filled islands, sample virtual makeup alongside friends, guided by stylists and influencers who challenged consumers to a key-finding mini-game, the prize of which offered access to an exclusive new lip colour. Luxury brands Clé de Peau and Dior also created fantastical virtual showrooms highlighting their holiday offerings and featuring shoppable products, easing the task of buying gifts at a time where many consumers weren’t yet comfortable with returning to physical stores, but still wanted to experience the atmosphere and feel associated with those premium brands.

A healthy foundation for the future

Instagram’s first ever trends report highlighted the merging of the fashion and beauty worlds into gaming as video games become the “new mall”. One in five young people expect to see more designer clothing lines for their digital avatars, and interest in purchasing virtual-only goods is up 50% from 2021. A further 27% say they expect to shop more through social media and other in-app features.

“Beauty brands have been some of the earliest and most successful adopters of AR try-on,” says Meta vice president of product Yulie Kwon Kim, be it through TikTok filters and Snapchat lenses or dedicated apps, and packaged with virtual shopping experiences. A brand’s digital identity needn’t be in the exact same tone as their physical, and the use of virtual showrooms allows brands to communicate and engage with a younger and digital-first audience. With this audience being the luxury beauty buyers of the future, it is likely that this trend of digital shopping will persist into 2022 and beyond.

NFTs will continue to solidify their place as both a sought-after digital collectible and a mark of membership which could bring with it access to unique gated content or opportunities. This is already becoming a reality as brands are coupling exclusive physical products with limited NFTs to create the most sought after pairings which seem destined to sell out.

Curating an authentic connection

The key to successful gaming activations for beauty brands lies with creating experiences that are both authentic and that provide value for their target audience. This can range from creating exclusive playable activations to unique wearable items, or simply respecting the playing experience with advertising that blends seamlessly and becomes an intrinsic part of the gameplay. Bidstack, the leading in-game advertising platform, have created immersive VR experiences and delivered award-winning campaigns for fashion and beauty brands such as Paco Rabanne. What made these campaigns a success was the ability to reach the desired audience without disrupting the gamer.

As the metaverse evolves, beauty brands and other advertisers who lean into this new frontier have an opportunity to uniquely shape the future of advertising, moving away from the fragmented interruptive formats we see now. The metaverse will offer new opportunities, touchpoints, technologies and formats where ad integrity, ad quality and the gaming experience combine to create a better, more immersive way for brands to engage with their target audience.

Esports Gaming In-game Advertising


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