Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Simon Gosling: Why every marketer needs to understand gaming

By Simon Gosling, CMO, Bidstack

Simon Gosling, Bidstack CMO and New Digital Age’s new monthly columnist, has over 25-years’ experience in the industry and was previously Futurist at Unruly.

Any brand Marketing Director or agency Creative Director worth their salt should be able answer these simple pop-quiz culture questions, (or at least get close!):

Music – Who are the year’s 3 most followed artists on Spotify. 1. Ed Sheeran, 2. Drake, 3. Ariana Grande. Film – What are the 3 biggest grossing movies so far, of 2019?: 1. Avengers: Endgame, 2. The Lion King 3. Toy Story 4. Social   – Who are the 3 most followed people on Instagram? 1. Cristiano Ronaldo, 2. Ariana Grande, 3. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

But, in the year when the value of the gaming industry outstripped music and video combined could they answer similar questions around gaming and esports? Such as:

Gaming – What are the UK’s 3 best selling games titles of 2019? 1. Grand Theft Auto V 2. FIFA 19 3. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Esports –  In August 2019, which game streaming video platform did Ninja ditch Amazon’s Twitch for? Microsoft’s Mixer. Gaming Platforms – Google, Apple and Microsoft are all launching game streaming platforms this year. Can you name them? Google Stadia, Apple Arcade and Microsoft Project xCloud. 

In addition, they should also be aware that the Premier League now has its own official eSports competition; the ePremier League. All 20 Premier League teams have their own esports teams and 21 of the 30 NBA teams also play in the NBA 2K League. Professional video gamers are being signed by these Football and Basketball esports leagues as aggressively as athletes in the real world of sports.z

Some stats around gaming are incredible: 2.5B people now play games across the globe. More people are watching other people play video games and esports on Twitch and YouTube than watching video on Netflix, Hulu and HBO combined. 

Neilsen tells us that 60% of regular esports viewers don’t even watch any TV on a weekly basis and 50% don’t subscribe to any video/ paid TV platforms.

The real mass market

Forget the stereotypes, the average British gamer is a 43 year old, educated woman. More people tuned into the League of Legends World Championship (100M) than the Super Bowl (98M) and in July, 16 year old Kyle Geirsdorf, won more prize money, ($3M), winning the Fortnite World Championship, beating 40,000 entrants, than Novak Djokovic won for the men’s singles at Wimbledon, (2.8M – he only had to beat 32 seeded players, so seems fair)!

GenZ and millenials are the biggest players of games with 57% of the world’s gamers aged 10 to 35. They’re also getting harder to reach, with 43% of UK 18 to 24 yr olds using some form of ad blocking software, (in game ads aren’t affected), which is why my colleague, Bidstack Marketing Director, Vanessa Yu and I called our recent presentation at London’s Festival of Marketing, ‘Reaching the Unreachables’. 

In a recent podcast interview, when asked what brands and agencies can do to succeed in the in-game advertising market and the booming world of esports, my answer was to employ someone who knows how to speak Game. Someone who lives, eats and breathes video games and esports. 

At Bidstack, even though we’re all gamers, we nevertheless employ a 22 year old gaming fanatic as our Head of Esports. He keeps us all fully up to speed on all the latest goings on and we’re also hiring his services out to brands, on a daily consultancy rate, to advise on the opportunities, risks of in game advertising and esports.

The missed opportunity

At last month’s Dmexco, Walker Jacobs, CRO of Twitch, was asked why he felt there was such great misconception, by brands and agencies on the enormous opportunities presented by in game, or game-related advertising. He answered with two points. 

First, he claimed the the key investment and strategy makers at brands don’t have a personal passion for gaming so how or why would they get involved? Second, he said it was because you can’t currently advertise in games; though that’s not accurate anymore.

Of course, we’ve seen big brand activations with Fortnite, such as the one with Nike Air Jordan, but such collaborations, whilst highly effective can be massively time consuming and costly, not to mention risky. (Trust me, if you think the Kendal Jenner/ Pepsi episode was controversial, just try messing with a tribe of gamers’ beloved gaming experience!).

It’s now possible to place real world ads in real world positions within games, such as football pitch hoardings, race track banners or open world billboards. Game publishers and gamers alike actually welcome such ads because they don’t disturb the game play and can even elevate the realism.

It is now possible, (thanks to Bidstack) to buy such in-game ads programmatically through the biggest DSPs and they can be targeted, so that two players playing the same game 100 miles apart are simultaneously served different ads, based on their profile.

And remember… if those players are on Twitch, there’s a huge potential secondary audience watching their gameplay and also seeing those ads.