Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The NDA Gaming Roundtable part 2: do gaming environments measure up for advertisers?

How important a factor is ‘measurement’ in attracting more marketing revenues into the gaming space? Will the loss of third-party cookies and personal IDs impact gaming ad revenues as much as other media channels? Will the growth of interest in the Metaverse finally see Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality move into the mainstream for gamers and marketers? 

These were just a few of the questions posed to a panel of gaming experts at  a recent New Digital Age (NDA) roundtable event. NDA’s editor Justin Pearse chaired the discussion, where he was joined by: Sophie Strong, Head of Display and Social at Wavemaker UK, Wavemaker; Greg Carroll, VP of Global Revenue at Activision Blizzard Media; Matt Parsons, Head of Gaming UK/Account Director at Azerion; Ashley Bolt, Managing Partner – Gaming at Havas Entertainment;  Alex Kirby, Global Head of Programmatic at Future; and Phelan Hill, Head of Strategy & Consulting at Nielsen Sports. 

Attention seekers

On the measurement of marketing outcomes in the gaming space, Hill noted that both games publishers and advertisers need to up their efforts. 

He said: “In traditional digital media channels, advertisers demand and have become used to lots of measurement and lots of results around purchase consideration and other core metrics. That sort of measurement generally isn’t as advanced in gaming and eSports but, equally, clients will happily spend lots in gaming environments without ever demanding the same kind of granular measurement they expect from other channels. As a result, gaming doesn’t have the same depth of empirical results to help make its case, so it’s a little bit of a ‘chicken-or-egg’ situation.”

However, Sophie Strong of Wavemaker feels that good progress is being made. She explained: “Every piece of work I’ve done in the games space has had proper measurement in place, and we’ve been able to quantify the outcomes for our clients. In gaming, though, getting the context right is generally more important than data or cookies. If your message doesn’t align with the game, you’re going to stand out like a sore thumb. So, as always, it’s about understanding how you want to engage with the community based on outcome and audience, then you think about the channel decision.”

Strong added that growing buzz around both the ‘attention economy’ and the ‘Metaverse’ is likely to shift more marketing investment into the gaming space, a prediction that Activision’s Greg Carroll agreed with. 

“From an ‘attention economy’ perspective, gaming has the potential to be absolutely massive,” said Carroll. “Games publishers could be the big winner there, but I agree that brands and publishers need to do more to embed measurement insights at the beginning of a project. Too many brands are still asking to simply have their product feature in a game, whether it’s a good fit or not. 

“Brand marketers are also accelerating in their rush towards the Metaverse, but the thing there is that you have a world where you are no longer bound by the rules of physics. There’s an opportunity to interact with consumers in a totally new way. The constant that marketers should cling to is authentic, non-intrusive messaging that delivers a rewarding experience for gamers.”

Head in the game

Ashley Bolt of Havas Entertainment made the point that, with gaming becoming a component of more brands’ media plans, agencies should adapt their recruitment strategy to help attract more people with actual experience of the games their clients are targeting. He commented: “In some cases, the balance should tip towards ‘gamer-first, marketer-second’ when hiring. We can educate you to be any sort of marketer, but we can’t teach you to have a passion for gaming. It’s important, from an ‘authenticity’ point of view,  to have people on your team that know about the gaming community and the tech that surrounds it.”

With the publisher’s digital ad revenues under threat from restrictions to traditional online targeting methods, do games represent an opportunity for publishers to fight back? Alex Kirby of Future believes so and thinks closer collaboration between media publishers and games publishers will be one outcome. 

She said: “Given the various challenges facing publishers right now, there’s a huge amount of crossover between the measurement issues traditional publishers and games publishers are dealing with. We’re both interested in keeping people engaged for as long as possible. If gaming is something that publishers can offer to boost time-on–page, just as they do with video content or competitions, they’ll start to leverage it more and more.”

Matt Parsons of Azerion agrees that advertisers, agencies and games publishers need to create a shared language around campaign measurement. “There has to be a partnership to make this all work properly. It’s in everyone’s interest now to have the best measurement available in gaming environments and work out what comes next.

What can be classed as a successful campaign in Game X? And what does that do to the rest of an advertiser’s media plan? With more marketing money moving towards gaming, it’s more important that we can prove success for advertisers.”