TV advertising, once the primary way for brands to connect with young audiences, is on the decline. Only 33% of Gen Z watches TV, and just over half of millennials have a cable or satellite TV subscription. And, while these generations may opt for streaming services over traditional TV, there’s a telling sign that another channel is moving up in the advertising world – video games.
Recently, Netflix’s chief executive officer admitted that when it comes to vying for screen time, video gaming, not other streaming services is its biggest competitor. To put the audience size in perspective, Netflix has 167 million members, whereas just one of Epic’s games, Fortnite, has over 200 million users.
Worldwide, there are more than 2.6 billion gamers, each spending over eight hours per week playing. Gaming has now transitioned from an underground subculture to a growing part of pop culture. Gamers are active members of their communities, socializing with each other, both in-game and at massive live events.
Over 20,000 gaming fans packed an arena to attend the 2019 League of Legends World Championship live, and with the event broadcasted in 16 languages and across more than 20 platforms, it reached a record-breaking 21.8 million Average Minute Audience (AMA). Last year Fortnite made history when 10.7 million players attended DJ Marshmello’s in-game concert. Thousands more watched it live on Twitch, and the event recap on YouTube has amassed 27 million views. That’s a lot of eyes looking at gaming content.
What does this mean for advertisers?
The typical gamer is no longer a reclusive teenage boy. 70% of players are over 18 years old, and the male to female ratio is almost even. According to ESA, gamers are as varied as can be; they are college-educated, ethnically diverse, and engaged civically.
Generation Z has grown up with controllers in their hands and see gaming as part of their identity. It is an integral part of their social lives and a place where they connect and communicate with like-minded friends. Gen Z has also come of age in an influencer-dominated era, and many forward-thinking brands are already focused on the gaming community, using its influencers to get their messages across.
Take Ninja, for instance. In 2018, tickets to his Red Bull-sponsored Fortnite event sold out within minutes. The following year he was immortalized on collectible cans of Red Bull. When Ninja collaborated with Adidas, his sneakers sold out in under an hour.
What marketers should take away from these examples is the sheer buying power and disposable income gamers have. Gaming is creating unique opportunities for brands, and advertisers need to think about how they can effectively communicate with a generation that is used to fast-moving, image-heavy environments filled with snackable content.
What’s so different about gaming?
The burgeoning gaming and esports industries offer significant advantages for brands. Let’s look at three benefits of advertising in video games.
A substantial problem for TV commercials is viewability, a metric that is easily trackable in the digital world, and less so in the TV world. For TV viewers, commercials are the perfect time to check social feeds or head to the kitchen for a snack. Brands have no way of knowing if someone is watching a commercial or if that person is their target audience.
The nature of gaming is the opposite. Gaming offers an immersive, action-packed environment that commands a player’s full attention as their eyes dart around the screen, taking in every bit of information. This is where ad viewability can’t be beaten; viewability is 100% trackable. Advertisers know if a player passed a branded billboard as they whipped around the corner in a racing game. Brands can get granular data on ad viewability, down to how long ads were viewed and whether they were viewed head-on, from the side, or only partially seen due to an obstructing object.
Video game publishers and console providers are able to collect data on each player while ensuring that the highest standards of data privacy are maintained. However, many players are willing to share their data in exchange for a more personalized experience.
With first-party data in hand, advertisers can deliver hyper-targeted campaigns served programmatically, and in real-time. Leveraging data like geolocation, age, gender, and interests can result in effective personalized campaigns that are preferred by advertisers and players alike. For example, just before dinner time, McDonald's could place their logo on a team’s jersey and subconsciously influence a player’s meal choice.
Everyone despises disruptive ads. When an ad negatively impacts the user experience, players connect their frustrations to the brand being advertised, turning what should be a positive, brand-building campaign into the opposite - one that creates a negative attitude. Thanks to the premium nature of gaming and the technology that enables ads to be placed on any object in the game, ads look natural in context and similar to how they would appear in real life. Brands that couldn’t afford to run campaigns on a jumbo screen at a live NBA game can take advantage of gaming to deliver their message to an even more targeted, engaged audience inside of NBA 2K20.
The future of digital advertising
The one clear thing is that gaming is on an upwards trend. In many ways, the medium is actually replacing social media as the main place where young users congregate online. That’s good news for advertisers, since the gaming environment is also less convoluted than social media, making it an ideal, clean format in which ads can be impactful as opposed to getting lost and scrolled past in a never-ending social feed. Add to that video game’s capability of measuring viewability and its ability to target players with personalized campaigns, video games join TV as a top way to reach global audiences.
Itamar Benedy, chief executive officer of Anzu