Welcome to the third realm of brand building

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The Immersive Game World Is Becoming Much More Real

While most of the marketing world reels from the global lockdown, in-game and esports advertising now finds itself centre stage, having quickly transitioned from something ‘interesting’ and ‘down the line’ to very much of the here and now.

This isn’t purely down to Covid-19 though. We’re experiencing a convergence of technology, innovation, mass adoption, and shifting social stigmas, leaving the days of cross-legged, square-eyed teenage gamers well behind. Smart-phones have changed the world in many, many ways, and in gaming terms they have turned all of us into players.

The Immersive Game World Is Becoming Much More Real

Social distancing directives have super-charged the rapidly emerging ‘virtual world’ environments, where general socialising is as much the name of the game as playing, attracting ever-growing audiences that are now so huge both the film and music industries combined are unable to keep up.

In what may go down as the most fortuitously timed release in the history of entertainment, Call of Duty’s Warzone launched in March of 2020. A free-to-play online battleground (for 18 and over) set in the virtual city of Verdansk, the game managed to amass an incredible 50 million users within its first month.

Much like a real city, Verdansk is awash with Out of Home (OOH) ads. From roadside billboards, giant banners, and digital posters, to video screens within buildings, these ads all serve to further enhance the game’s realism and authenticity.

When it comes to blurring the boundaries of the real versus virtual world, Fortnite continues to lead the way, with the recent and well covered Travis Scott concerts attracting a staggering live audience of over 27 million people. It would have been easy to publicize the event through real-world channels, but instead (presumably to reinforce the sense of crossing from one world into another) the event was seeded via posters and Out of Home ads on Fortnite Island and other key in-game locations.

What Fortnite in particular teaches us is that brands not only can and do benefit from the same salience in a virtual world as in the real world, but the creative possibilities for engagement and tapping into the emotional core of a consumer are on a whole new level.

How OOH advertising can be leveraged with in-game ads

In-game ads quite literally combine the best of physical and digital. Of course there’s the scale and impact, dwell time and overall positive aesthetics that Out of Home is known and loved for. But there’s also the robust metrics and clarity of data behind it all that is part and parcel of traditional digital display.

Thanks to revolutionary ad viewability measurement capabilities, advertisers will know if a player passes a branded billboard as they whipped around the corner in a racing game, or jogged across a dual-carriageway in CoD Warzone, right down to how long each ad was viewed, how many times each player has viewed it and whether it was viewed head-on, from the side, or only partially seen due to an obstructing object. Additionally, campaign effectiveness measurement allows advertisers to understand how brand memorability, brand desire, and brand recall were impacted by their in-game advertising campaign.

Then there are the genuine programmatic capabilities that work seamlessly in the same way a standard digital or social campaign would. This means that specific audiences and demographics can be isolated and targeted for maximum relevance and context. Imagine running a campaign on every digital OOH screen in Manchester and being able to serve a different message to men, women, under 18's, over 50's, and so on, with zero wastage and a guaranteed, measurable impact. Think of gaming as your fully controllable, one-to-one comms channel that can reach millions per day, all within a sculpted and adaptive immersive world.

The Best of Both Worlds

Perhaps the greatest opportunity of all is the ability to merge the digital and physical worlds. How will a consumer feel if, on their way home from work (we all remember what that was like, right?), they see a brand ad on a series of OOH screens, before arriving home and jumping into a different, virtual world and seeing the same ad on another digital poster...only this time with an extra layer of context, because it's been tailored specifically for them?

Whichever way we choose to look at it, creating entirely new ways to reach consumers can only be good news for those seeking audience engagement. There will always be the power of reality--the experience of a live gig or the popcorn smell of a cinema. But ask a musical artist if they'd like an extra 15 million people in the audience and I’m sure we all know the answer.

In-game advertising fuses the real-world with the digital world, and in doing so, creates a third realm of opportunity, one that moves us closer to Minority Report than Mario Kart. And the best thing... suddenly anything is possible!

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