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What audio advertising opportunities are there in gaming?

By Connie Hawker | Member Services Manager

May 19, 2022 | 7 min read

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As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into Gaming Advertising, a selection of IAB UK members – including AdTonos, AudioMob, DAX at Global, Odeeo, NumberEight and Spotify – explore the potential of in-game audio advertising for brands.

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When it comes to gaming, the ultimate goal is to seamlessly immerse contextually relevant ads into game play. So how can advertisers effectively use audio in a gaming environment to capture players’ attention? Here we speak to some of our expert gaming members on how advertisers can successfully harness the power of audio in-game.

Paul Cranwell, VP of strategic partnerships, AdTonos: Audio is having a revolution and none more so than in mobile gaming. For marketers in particular, it opens the door to new audiences and is great at reaching difficult audiences like Gen Z, Millennials and the over 50s. App Annie has forecast that 3.2 billion people will be playing mobile games globally by 2023, and we are expecting explosive audio ad growth to continue over the next two years as more and more publishers integrate audio alongside video.

Audio ads are delivering high response levels - adding to the to the users’ experience and not interrupting game play. For years, radio has been the dominant audio player, but gaming will start to challenge that position and attract new advertiser brands. Gaming accelerates audio's credible brand-safe strengths and reputation and helps position it as the perfect alternative and complement to video.

Sally Keane, head of enterprise sales, Northern Europe, Spotify: What excites me about in-game audio ads is the huge potential to create immersive, engaging content that resonates deeply with users. Music and podcasts have become an integral part of the gaming experience, and users are turning in droves to the personalization of the experience.

As the video game industry continues to grow, there’s enormous potential for brands to reach this leaned-in, attentive audience. The gaming audience is no longer niche - it covers a wide array of interests and affinities that allow brands from across the fashion, food, and sports worlds to partner with specific games to tap into target audiences. At the same time, gaming is no longer just for younger generations, adults over 35 have steadily increased their monthly game console streaming time, meaning brands need to rethink relying on traditional channels to reach this demographic and start factoring in the streaming-while-gaming moment into digital marketing plans.

Christian Facey, founder & CEO, AudioMob: Audio has always been tremendously important in games - setting the atmosphere and anchoring players in digital spaces, making those places feel more immersive and even tangible. Today, that core ability of audio to deeply connect with users remains its greatest power. Technological advances simply mean we can now do so much more with that power – look to the popularity of artists like Ariana Grande performing concerts in Fortnite as a captivating example of what’s now possible. Equally, audio excels in cutting through today’s visually cluttered world, deftly grabbing attention without intruding on gaming experiences.

Whatever form the metaverse does take, audio won’t just be key in giving players a sense of presence and direction – it will also let brands, content creators, broadcasters and more connect with vast audiences. Elsewhere, as more games across console, mobile, PC and VR and AR become persistent, connected spaces, we’ll see more musicians, labels, podcasts, advertisers and broadcasters using audio to find and engage new audiences.

Emma Raz, director of commercial, NumberEight: What makes audio-in-game so exciting is that it combines two distinctly unique content types both known for high session lengths (15-23 minutes per user). Games have traditionally struggled to strike a balance between showing enough ads for effective monetization while not alienating players. Audio ads present a unique opportunity to add more ad placements without disrupting the actual gameplay. Innovative startups such as AudioMob, Odeeo, AdTonos, and even established players such as TargetSpot, are making strides to bring this technology to advertisers.

As with any exciting innovation, some challenges lie ahead. For example, audio advertisers have traditionally been targeting users based on personas or capabilities such as day part targeting to reach users in contextually relevant moments. However, game developers often don’t collect such granular data. Privacy-first, contextual intelligence can help audio advertisers better understand who is playing games. The latest research by NumberEight on three mobile games showed that there were 36% desk jobbers, 35% interrupted workers, 26% vehicle users, 21% homebodies and 20% night owls.

Mark Halliday, director of DAX at Global: Mobile gaming is massive. The IAB says nearly two out of five people (38%) play a game on their phone every day and it’s on the rise, jumping 29% in the past two years alone. And it’s all sorts of games - Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Sudoku and even Wordle – that have recently taken the world by storm and spawned hundreds of similar games.

This highly engaged audience is also very open to advertising, with the majority (63%) saying they are willing to accept ads in exchange for a free game. So why are we excited about in-game audio advertising? Because it provides advertisers with new opportunities to reach broad audiences in new, creative ways. In-game audio ads are also very different to other mobile advertising formats - they’re non-intrusive and they allow gamers to play and listen simultaneously without interfering with game play.

Amit Monheit, co-founder & CEO at Odeeo: The gaming industry – particularly mobile gaming – is an absolutely colossal market, but the advertising on it is mostly dominated by other mobile games. There is a real opportunity for large enterprises – the typical Fortune 500 companies – to finally break into this space and get in front of new customers.

Large organizations already know how to create audio adverts that work. Since the radio first came out, brands have been playing around with the medium and making extremely creative ads. This is their ballpark: they know the rules, they know the techniques and they’ve already got the assets. They could even repurpose their content and give it new life.

But it’s more than that. With in-game audio ads, you know so much more about the potential listener, so you can target your ads much more effectively. You get the best of both worlds. All without getting in the way of the actual game, which keeps the players happier, too. That’s pretty damn exciting.

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The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) is the industry body for digital advertising, committed to building a sustainable future for digital advertising. We do this by bringing the industry together through our 1,200 members including media owners, agencies and brands.

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