Level up your ads: Why brands are getting into gaming

Level up your ads: Why brands are getting into gaming

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By Vanessa Goff-Yu and Lewis Sherlock, Bidstack

In-game advertising isn’t the ad category of the future, it’s the ad category of the here and now. Brands are starting to recognise its enormous value, with over $3 billion spent on in-game advertising in the U.S. alone last year, and double-digit growth expected for this year. From Adidas and Nike to PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, brands are shifting budget to gaming, and it’s not hard to see why.

The global gaming market is already immense and is estimated to be worth around $152 billion. In the UK the sector accounts for more than half of the entire entertainment market and is more lucrative than music and video combined. Over the next five years cloud gaming services such as Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud and the rollout of 5G connectivity, will increase accessibility and drive exponential growth in this market.

Despite skewing slightly to younger age groups, gaming cuts across all demographics delivering phenomenal brand reach. It’s not just ultimate users that live and breathe gaming, brands can also reach the mass audiences watching gaming via esports or streaming platforms like Twitch, and the casual users playing on mobile who don’t identify as gamers at all.

In-game advertising shouldn’t be seen as simply an additional category to supplement the big channels such as TV, social and display in which brands currently invest. It is displacing those channels, with consumers spending their time gaming instead of using other media types.

Less than 40% of Twitch esports fans regularly watch TV, for instance, and time spent on social networks such as Facebook is decreasing as time spent gaming grows.

Younger audiences don’t use laptops and PCs, and even when they do there is a good chance they will block display ads. The degree of investment in TV, social and display is totally disproportionate to audience share, and brands need to shift some of their budgets to in-game advertising to reach the unreachables that are missed via more traditional channels.

Gaming doesn’t just provide access to vast, hard-to-reach audiences, it also delivers attention. Because the gaming experience is inherently reliant on user interaction it generates a far higher level of engagement, than other channels such as TV or display.

As long as native, non-disruptive formats are used, in-game advertising can expose the consumer to the advertiser’s brand while they are fully immersed in the game and engaged with its content. An in-game attention study, that used eye tracking technology by Lumen Research, revealed that in-game advertising outperforms online browsing norms in terms of attention levels, by more than double in some cases.

Although in-game advertising is a relatively new ad category it is highly accessible, and the tech already exists to get campaigns up and running. Standards around viewability are currently being developed, along with a framework for third-party verification, which will give brands more confidence around investing in the sector. With its ability to reach and engage massive and elusive audiences at scale, it is little wonder brands are getting into gaming.

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