Roxanne Harley, director of client strategy at gaming advertising platform Azerion, reflects on how the rise of the sector has attracted the attention of media agencies who are reshaping to meet demand. She wonders if it will become a core part of their media offerings.
When my chief executive first emailed me about the ‘metaverse’ – an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars – I thought he must be having some sort of midlife crisis. However, on closer inspection and research, it seems that actually the metaverse will be the next big thing in digital advertising. And I know you've heard THAT before.
The gaming industry is now bigger than the music and movie industry combined, growing exponentially during lockdown, and reports show that it’s not going to stop there as player growth rates continue to rise.
The gaming audience is changing
Gamers aren’t just smelly young boys in bedrooms. It is a mainstream medium and the UKIE estimates that half of the UK’s 37 million gamers are female, thanks mainly to the popularity of casual mobile games. Another contributing factor to the increased popularity in gaming is the pandemic. A recent report revealed that 62% of UK adults and 92% of 16-24-year-olds played games in 2020, with more than half agreeing it helped them get through various lockdown restrictions. And it is predicted that this uptake is not likely to slow down any time soon.
As it stands, generation Z (81%), millennials (77%), generation X (60%) and baby boomers (42%) are all playing video games on smartphones, gaming consoles and computers at least weekly if not daily. This is great news for brands, as gen Z proves harder to reach than any other demographic - yet they spend seven hours and 20 minutes a week playing games.
Gaming trends are transforming media agencies
The gaming trend is also something that we are seeing transform media agencies. Publicis announced its Publicis Play marketing arm in January this year followed by a similar move at Havas and most recently Dentsu. Clients and media agencies have also seen measurement in the gaming space dramatically improve recently. The industry is now able to access brand effectiveness and attention studies, generating important and interesting comparisons to advertising in-game v standard display.
The metaverse takes consumer and ad engagement one step further. According to the Newzoo Global trend report, the metaverse trend, rapidly accelerated by Covid-19, is powerful enough to persist beyond Covid-19. In fact, in the Newzoo trend report half of gen Z gamers claim to use social games to just ‘hang out’ without playing. When asked in the report how they expect this to change in the future, all demographics agreed that time spent with the ‘social’ elements of a game will increase.
Social status is vital for brands
The need for social status in gaming has also made headlines recently after a virtual Gucci handbag sold higher than retail price (around £2,994). You could assume this may be a one-off or a fluke, but what we will certainly see is a trend of brands taking that leap into the metaverse as demand from the consumers for social, virtual events and experiences in gaming increases.
Earlier this year, to mark Hotel Hideaway reaching 15 million users worldwide, the game held a live concert with Cookie Kawaii in May. Its virtual concerts recently began with piloted events in March and April featuring artists DJ Luuk van Dijk, DJ Mark Sixma and Sidney Samson, which drew in more than 70,000 concert-goers per event. These concertgoers viewed and danced through the 30-minute performances, and purchased concert merchandise such as clothing that featured the headlining artists’ brand.
Marketing in the metaverse will bring up new creative ideas, not only around advertising but will also completely change the experiential and event world altogether. Brands will need to stand out by creating relevant content and products based on the gaming platform chosen to achieve the highest engagement rates. We might even see marketing teams start to think with ‘virtual’ first in gaming advertising rather than replicating products.
With measurements in gaming continuously improving, brands and advertisers alike will also be able to improve brand effectiveness and target the right audiences. Furthermore, we must not forget how the world of gaming is continuously evolving, with new trends constantly emerging, such as ‘social’ elements of games becoming increasingly important to all gaming demographics.
Brands and advertisers need to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer trends to be able to deliver the best user experience possible. Without sounding like I’m on the cusp of a midlife crisis, in the metaverse the possibilities really are endless.