Discord’s foray into ads could help brands tap into niche audiences

Discord’s foray into ads could help brands tap into niche audiences

Discord is dipping its toe into the realm of advertising.

Its first ad format, called Sponsored Quests, rolls out this week and will allow video-game marketers to promote their products to Discord users.

In a blog post, Discord said: “Quests will show up tastefully in Discord, where you can opt in to stream your game to friends and win rewards for playing. Some players will be made aware that a Quest is available, while others will discover it as their friends accept and embark on the Quest.

“Developers and publishers who sponsor Quests will work with our team to build an experience that showcases their game and offers a reward tailored for their game.”

Discord had previously tested the ad format with Epic Games and Lucasfilm Games as part of a Fortnite and Star Wars mash-up.

Analysis: Discord must tread carefully

According to Eb Adeyeri, vice-president of paid social and strategic partnerships at Jellyfish, part of The Brandtech Group, it’s no surprise that social platforms like Discord are looking to raise revenues in new ways in a tough economic environment.

Similar to Netflix, which had been vocal about its anti-advertising stance before it chose to introduce ads last year, Discord had been openly against placing advertising on its platform. For Natasha Fulton, media strategist at M&C Saatchi World Services, this means Discord will have to be extra careful about taking any future advertising strategy forward.

“Discord’s strategic move into advertising marks a notable departure from its initial anti-advertising stance, potentially risking a perception of inauthenticity or ‘selling out’ among its user base,” she told The Media Leader.

But Fulton acknowledged that Discord’s first ad format is a good way to venture into this area, arguing: “[The] introduction of Sponsored Quests aligns with its gaming roots and offers a non-intrusive way for advertisers to engage users. Moreover, Discord’s commitment to user control, allowing opt-outs from personalised promotions, bolsters transparency and addresses concerns surrounding data privacy.”

However, she warned that, with similar gaming-centric platforms like Twitch having at times been met with backlash by the gaming community for introducing ads that are too intrusive, “Discord must tread carefully” by “listening to user feedback and adapting its advertising strategy” to avoid pitfalls.

Financial service takes to Twitch to reach young gamers

Niche space

Commercially, whether Discord is successful in advertising is likely to come down to how it leverages its unique selling point as a niche space for brands to reach gaming audiences.

According to its website, Discord has around 150m monthly active users (MAUs) — this pales in comparison to other social media outlets like Facebook (over 3bn MAUs) or even Snapchat (over 800m MAUs). However, according to Adeyeri, Discord users are more likely to be distinct from the average Meta or Snap consumer, and thus harder to target elsewhere.

“If you’re going for a hardcore gaming audience, it makes sense for Discord to be a platform you would want to engage in,” he told The Media Leader.

For new social platforms, interest from advertisers and how social media budgets are allocated depend on how unique the user base is. “‘What’s the overlap with Meta?’ is really what it comes down to,” Adeyeri explained.

However, he noted: “I expect most brands would try to organically reach out to those users [by] setting up their own Discord server,” he said.

Brands have been creating in-app Discord servers and inviting fans to partake in community-based discussions for years. To lure them away from just organic marketing and towards paid advertising, Discord’s ad formats would have to be particularly enticing, Adeyeri added.

Like Fulton, he sees Sponsored Quests as a good start that have a chance of “catching on” with some gaming advertisers.

“The good thing is that gaming advertisers have been known as working on the bleeding edge of what you can do with advertising,” he added. “[They] are typically very switched on.”

Our new event, The Future of Audio and Entertainment, launches in April with 10 partners

Media Jobs