By Thorbjörn Warin, Chief Supply Officer, Adverty
Brand safety remains a burning issue for digital advertisers – and rightly so. It can be difficult to find fully brand-safe opportunities to reach audiences, at scale, and this challenge has become even more acute in today’s context, with an ongoing global pandemic and associated anxiety. Too often, advertisers have found their content inadvertently ending up next to offensive content or fake news.
Social media platforms, in particular, face intense pressure over their role in disseminating objectionable content. Amid last year’s protests against racism, marketers expressed alarm about hateful sentiments expressed online, while, in recent months, hundreds of advertisers temporarily boycotted Facebook, and TikTok was mired in a series of brand safety and privacy incidents – including being investigated by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. Facebook has announced that it has bolstered its brand safety tools; but such problems don’t look set to go away any time soon.
Fortunately for the gaming industry, developers don’t allow user-generated or third-party content, in the vast majority of games. Indeed, this media channel is looking increasingly attractive to a range of advertisers seeking a more controlled environment for ad placements, and as a way of avoiding the uncertainty of investing in more open channels. Mobile gaming, for instance, is age-rated, categorised and vetted before the launch of each app; apps which, in turn, are not open to the dynamic feeds that websites allow.
The availability of in-game programmatic technology, too, has made it possible for advertisers to benefit from direct integration with SDKs, thereby obtaining even greater control and transparency. As a result, gaming is starting to emerge as a preferred channel for advertisers keen to catch their audience’s attention. What’s more, the worldwide gaming audience has exploded exponentially – as have the formats on offer.
Gamers are highly engaged, and often represent hard-to-reach audiences – which is why the most promising formats today build on the immersive nature of the channel and fit in seamlessly, offering the ultimate in contextual brand advertising. In-game advertising can offer guaranteed viewability, too, in addition to both performance and branding capabilities. It can be also perceived as prestigious to appear in popular games, where hyper-engaged audiences return time and again – thereby presenting advertisers with an opportunity to build relationships with gamers organically, whilst in a safe environment in which branded content can sit naturally.
As a result, this burgeoning media channel is emerging as a preferred choice for advertisers looking to capture the attention of audiences in a non-intrusive and native way. Technological advancements allow both brands and game developers to have greater control over where ads are placed, offering both scale and transparency. It’s no surprise that a protected game environment that serves ads in a native way translates into better advertising opportunities for those companies hoping to reach the world’s massive gaming audiences.
What’s more, despite popular misconception, many of today’s gamers enjoy substantial buying power, with spending in games having increased consistently in recent years and gamers as diverse as the games they play. When US rapper Travis Scott drew a live audience of over 12 million for his concert on Fortnite, it revealed the scale of influence gaming now holds in the entertainment world. Gaming is now a mainstream pursuit, with around 3.4 billion people globally playing digital games. Rather than a solitary pursuit, this form of entertainment is becoming increasingly social, too. Digital games were already growing in popularity before the pandemic; but enforced isolation as a result of COVID-19 supercharged an already existing surge in consumption.
The interaction levels within games, with players immersed, rather than watching passively, allows for a new level of brand engagement in which a brand can form part of the experience, for instance through native integration into the gaming environment itself with in-game billboards, sponsorships, branded skins and other custom content.
There should no longer be any doubt: It is eminently possible to ensure brand safety and maximise trust in this burgeoning channel – advertising’s last largely untapped frontier, and arguably it’s most tightly controlled environment for ad placement.