In-game advertising: an opportunity for brands

The issue of ad blocking once again resurfaced at the World Mobile Congress. Leading network provider, 02 announced that it is looking to give users the ability to block ads if they feel “plagued by advertising”. This follows on from similar threats at the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) from Three Mobile – another leading network provider in the UK. Although there have been no legislative changes or work regarding ad blocking, the debate is very much in the headlines and in the public domain.   

Ad blocking uptake has slowed, but brands should not be resting on their laurels just yet. According to statistics from Campaign magazine, during 2017, 41.1% of millennials will use ad-blockers, versus 26.9% of Generation X and 13.9% of baby boomers. The increase in mobile phone usage will force marketers to think more carefully about exactly how they will reach these people, so that users do not feel interrupted, specifically during mobile gaming. Consumers are so used to advertising on television and radio, but mobile is a very different medium. Ultimately, advertisers need to be less invasive and more creative in their approach to reach their target audience.   

That said, the opportunity in mobile is huge, particularly in the gaming sector. The industry has seen a revolution. As traditional marketing channels, such as TV, print and even websites, become arguably less effective, marketers are constantly on the lookout to reach their target audiences and engage with them in a meaningful manner, thus again redefining the rules of the advertising game. With over two billion mobile gamers worldwide racking up more than three billion cumulative hours every single week, more and more brands aim to capitalise on this remarkable opportunity. The time spent playing mobile games is second to time spent on social networks – and growing. 

By the end of this year, more than 80% of US smartphone users will game on their devices, while 49% of these users aged 18-49, and the other half evenly distributed between 18 & under, and senior citizens. The expectation is that these figures are set to increase. It has been reported that the 8.5 percent increase in the games market is set to hit a staggering $118.6 billion in 2019.Advertising should not just be about “not interrupting” anymore, advertising should be about creating value, and being fun.  In-game advertising provides a one-of-a-kind channel for brand advertisers who are looking for new and engaging ways to reach their target audience. User quality amongst players is second to no other digital media channel, and the available data and user profiling within games – is a hugely valuable asset for advertisers. Such data goes far beyond geo’s and demographics, it enables behavioural analysis, preference and interest targeting, contextual targeting and much more.   

In-game advertising, when utilised correctly and carried out as a native component within the actual game-loops benefits brand advertisers, allowing them to engage with players, become a part of the gaming experience and create deeper brand affinity. No other mobile channel captivates the user’s attention in such an engaging manner, with gaming sessions being far longer than those of other channels - helping brands utilise this channel in a way that truly benefits the user and creates a valuable positive brand impact. 

When it comes to games, notoriously, brands have never been too big on the idea of mobile advertising. Previously, engagement for generic pop-up ads – the types of banner ads which appear randomly during game play – was very low and research has showed that users felt it was intrusive and ‘cheap’ - with many turning away from apps with those intrusive ads completely. 

With the massive penetration of mobile, and the fact that we consume more and more content via personal devices, “reaching” the consumer is no longer an issue. The primary battle a brand must win – is that of the user’s ATTENTION, and that is a tough battle to triumph with an estimated average of 7,000 ads one is exposed to every day. Today it is all about meeting your audiences exactly where they are at, in the exact setting they want to be met, and to engage with them in such a positive manner that will create a meaningful experience. And not only a meaningful experience, but a memorable one too! 

It is important to remember that users, nowadays, are somewhat accustomed to consuming advertising in exchange for content. However, the problem begins with ads that are of no relevance to them at all and even more important – ads that aggressively get in the way of their content experience. This method of advertising has suffered and has had the opposite effect by harming brands rather than helping them. I think this is the main reason YouTube has recently announced there will be no more thirty-second unskippable ads on the platform soon. This will, undoubtedly, be a trend that we fully expect to see this trend in other media sites.   

In-game advertising, carried out as a native part of the game programming patterns, presents the opportunity for brand advertisers to engage with players and become a part of the gaming experience creating a deeper connection with the brand. No other mobile channel captures the user’s attention in such an engaging and personal manner. This helps brands utilise this channel in a way that is both beneficial for the user and creates a positive result for the campaign at the same time.   

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