Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why FMCG brands should be tapping into Mobile Gaming

By Philip Gale, Head of Agency Development, EMEA, at InMobi

As the U.K. saw an 11% increase in the number of games played by the average user in 2020, mobile in-app gaming has never been more popular. Our own U.K. data supports the same thesis, with gaming vertical ad requests holding fast at around twice the level of 2020’s first lockdown. As a self-confessed gamer, I want to explain why this remains an untapped market for FMCG brands to advertise in.

According to a YouGov survey, 36% of U.K. adults spend more time gaming than they did before the pandemic – including 42% of female respondents. And since by its very nature with mobile gaming, you can take it with you, eMarketer forecasts that those trends that began in lockdowns are not going back in the box.

Especially on mobile, we are seeing that the gaming environment is changing, and the typical profile of a gamer is no longer a teenager spending hours on the computer but instead an older audience interacting with apps as a form of relaxation, just as they would watch TV in the past.

Gaming is everywhere

While gaming used to be limited to costly PCs and consoles, now almost everyone has a piece of gaming hardware in their pocket. With smartphones, the barrier to entry for gaming is lower than ever. Meanwhile, with more time spent at home, the pandemic saw a boost in time spent on hyper-casual gaming on mobile, across all demographics. InMobi’s own research in 2020 found that revenue from mobile games alone made up 48% of the total industry revenue across all gaming devices (console, PC, etc.)

Alongside this, new and smarter ad monetization technologies – such as real-time ads in AAA games (the industry’s equivalent to the ‘blockbuster’ in cinema), are increasingly hitting the mainstream. Unobtrusive to the gaming experience yet potentially also highly impactful for brands, these are advancing the case for taking in-game formats even more seriously.

And just as news publishers have learned that multiple revenue models can be deployed simultaneously – so in the gaming world, both publishers and gamers themselves are starting to feel the benefits of mixed models. On the agency side, the increasing variety of options potentially means advertising from household names – rather than other games, as was in the past – becomes normalised.

Gaming the metaverse

But the high value placed in gaming audiences is really nothing new, as we see tech giants tune into this sector just as brands may be beginning to – two examples of this in the recent past are Amazon’s purchase of Twitch and Microsoft’s acquisition of Discord.

Gaming is now considered cool, with dedicated gaming social platforms becoming the preferred environment to hang out with friends online – even when not gaming. This also perhaps explains in part Facebook/Meta’s recent pivot towards the metaverse, away from traditional social media.

So what does a gamer look like these days? All of the above has significantly changed the gaming landscape. So why do some brands still think the mobile gaming audience is limited to teenagers sitting in a dark corner of their bedroom? And why are FMCG advertisers relevant to mobile and hyper-casual gaming audiences in particular?

Possibly because mobile gaming is highly engaging with broad reach, reaching 30% of the U.K. population, according to eMarketer. This is significant in a fragmented market, with time spent on a patchwork of different media. As a channel, it is also one which is holding steady, as other ‘mainstream’ channels shift between digital and analog.

Finally, gaming activity largely takes place during downtime; during these relaxing, low stress times, consumers are often more receptive to brand messaging. For brand recall and uplift, in principle, it’s tailor-made for brand campaigns. Compared to other media, it can be highly scalable as a medium, as it is cost effective. Combined with the variety and choice around gaming type and topic, mobile gaming holds potential for contextual targeting too – this is especially ideal, as we increasingly look to a variety of privacy-first targeting methods.

Whether it’s the 11% increase in games played or the fact that more than a third of the U.K.’s adult population spending more time gaming, lockdowns have made mobile gaming mainstream, if it wasn’t already. Through education, case studies and simply making buying gaming media easier, the challenge now for tech is enabling major advertisers to catch up.