Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The door to in-game advertising just blew right open

By Alex Ginn, Director of Sales, Adverty

The story is a familiar one. Where marketers once casually discounted games as just a teenage obsession, they have gradually come to see how formats have progressed beyond traditional gaming and become far more immersive and entertaining. These days, the good marketers know that gamers aren’t just a stereotyped mass but a broad group that cuts across demographics, while platforms have evolved into ecosystems as large and fanatically engaged as social networks, with hundreds of millions of gamers logging in every day.

Meanwhile, creators have pushed gaming formats to the next level, focusing on building gameplay that allows for social connections, making the gaming experience even more involved, connected, engaging and realistic. This intense change in the environment offers endless possibilities for almost any industry looking to target and reach the profoundly diverse gaming generation.

Why gaming should be looked at as a marketing platform

The gaming ecosystem harbours the most passionate and engaged audiences in media and we are seeing massive brand investment flooding in. As a channel, gaming delivers reach, but it also generates emotional attachment, and major brands such as L’Oreal, Gucci, Nike are increasingly invested in in-game advertising and committed to tapping into this 2.5 billion-strong audience. There is no doubt that gaming as a media channel is more than a passing trend, and the main challenge for marketers is how to capitalise on this and increase their own brands’ exposure to the competitive gaming sector.

How marketers can jump in with both feet

For too long, the digital marketing industry has relied on social media for effective marketing, spending more than $93 billion on social media marketing in 2020 alone. Gaming, meanwhile, attracts only 5% of social advertising dollars, though the ecosystem stands at 75% of social media’s audience size. 

But gaming is not just about reach. In-game advertising provides ease and space for the creativity brands require to connect with the Gen Z and Millennials who are heavily invested in the gaming ecosystem. Some advertisers still attempt to apply conventional practices to gaming’s unconventional environments, considering this to be a high-risk or lower-funnel expenditure. As a result, it is not hard to spot underdeveloped, inactive advertising placements and messages that feel out of place in such a fast-paced vertical.

Make it an experience

Brands need to find their own solution to the gaming paradox. On the one hand, they need to focus on bringing the colour, creativity and vibrancy of their own brands to the gaming experience, adding value wherever they can. On the other, they have to be aware of when to step back and let gameplay flow. They should look to approach in-game advertising in unobtrusive ways, but pick their moment to engage and enrich a gamer’s experience.  

Despite their reservations, marketers agree that gaming is a massive industry, full of potential, that will continue to expand. It is also obvious that it has a receptive audience that is willing to spend money and socialise through the channel.

Marketers who are more nimble and innovative will enjoy the advantages sooner than those who are risk-averse and hesitant to experiment. The clear message is to think beyond any preconceived ideas you had of gaming and gamers. Those marketers who use this unique environment to improve connections and create moments between brands and customers are the ones that are going to hit the sweet spot and access a hugely lucrative market.