Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

As ad networks finally catch on, gaming is set to be propelled into the spotlight

by Alex Ginn, Director of Sales, Adverty

Something huge is happening in gaming which, for those of us immersed in the business, feels like the inevitable outcome of the investment in recent years from both developers and forward thinking marketers.

Moves by major holding groups to create dedicated gaming divisions – such as Dentsu’s DGame, DDB’s FTW (For the Win) and Publicis Play – are set to transform the sector from niche nice-to-have to mainstream mad-not-to have. Indeed, such has been the swing in favour of gaming that forecasters are predicting it will grow to become an ad revenue stream to rival football or rugby.

All this buzz around the sector in which we specialise feels like something of a reward for the businesses such as ours and those we work with day to day. For us this is not a surprise but a natural and inevitable development.

Gaming has been around for decades and with the ascent of the internet it was given a new and lucrative lease of life, with its army of dedicated fans exploring multi player games, online competition, the growth of esports – the list is endless. And then the rise of the smartphone took it all to a new dimension, opening up gaming to a far broader audience such that today women and men make up an equal split of players. 

To the unengaged bystander ‘gaming’ conjures up images of first person shooter games, but today the category emcompasses everything from Call of Duty and Fortnite to Candy Crush and Scrabble. (Other games are available.)

Technology aside, arguably the single biggest factor that has propelled gaming into the mainstream consciousness – for both consumers and advertisers alike – is lockdown. A surge of people from hugely diverse backgrounds discovered a love of gaming – on both computers or consoles and Smartphones – as they sought new ways to pass the enforced time at home. Indeed, it was cited as an accelerant in the creation of DGame, with Dentsu UK Euan Jarvie calling online gaming “a truly powerful platform for people to connect with one another”.

Gaming is now more than just a hobby, it is a social opportunity akin to social media, and savvy brands are spotting the unending opportunities that it presents, from in-app advertising, sponsorships, clickable content and more. Global ad spend on mobile games alone is predicted to be close to £85bn, making up 50% of all other gaming categories combined. 

Gaming is no longer a side hustle or fun add on to a media plan, it is a key advertising avenue for brands. With the global gaming community estimated to be more than three billion by 2023, these opportunities will only grow in number and strength. A more immersive and interactive environment you will not find, with the quantity of affordable and accessible games ensuring it will remain completely inclusive. 

However, with ad blockers still more popular among some gamers than is ideal, it is crucial that advertisers new to the discipline tread carefully. It is absolutely essential that any brand wanting to appear in this space adds value. Ads that appear out of context, are clunky, interrupt the game or in any other way negatively impact the player’s experience, could have the exact opposite effect for brands. 

For the uninitiated, consultation with experts in gaming will uncover all manner of techniques that will create a seamless experience for the player and, in turn, a highly efficient ROI for the advertiser. For those wanting to explore original ideas, collaboration with publishers and game developers can lead to exciting, impactful ads that enhance rather than detract from the experience. 

The creation of dedicated units within media agencies sends a clear message to the industry: gaming has arrived. And by integrating their brand message with the fastest growing media, advertisers are perfectly poised to break into one of the most powerful marketing channels there is.