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Players Take Your Positions: This Is the Year in-Game Advertising Goes Stratospheric

From time to time something happens in the industry that you know immediately and without a shadow of a doubt has just changed things forever.

Last week Publicis Groupe UK announced the creation of Publicis Play, a specialist gaming proposition, built from strategic and creative collaboration across the business. And that, if you’ll excuse the pun, was a game changer.

Overnight one of the world’s biggest advertising networks has essentially endorsed gaming by investing heavily in it as a stand alone advertising medium, giving a metaphorical leg up to what is rapidly becoming the most impactful way to speak to a broad and engaged audience.

Gaming has long been a part of the marketing mix but while it has been embraced by the likes of McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Lenovo, it remains a frustratingly well-kept secret among some marketers. In recent years it has nudged ever closer towards centre stage until now when it is firmly in line to be 2021’s headline act.

2020 saw a huge boost for the gaming industry, and not just because we were all stuck at home for much of it: indeed gaming usage had increased by 75% in March, before the first lockdown began, and across the year as a whole the sector outperformed music, video and film, proving it was the lockdown entertainment of choice for many of us.

As a result the UK gaming industry’s revenues are expected to have risen by 9.4% to £5.3bn, and are projected to continue to increase by an average of 7.3% over the next five years. Furthermore, of those audiences engaging with gaming, 2.6bn now play on mobile, making it the youngest, largest and fastest growing gaming platform.

This should be music to the ears of brands. With another lockdown comes the ongoing battle for attention as the opportunities to reach audiences remain smaller than usual. We are a nation in search of entertainment, distraction and engagement; marketers who want to speak to new and existing audiences in an impactful and engaging way could do no better than to explore the opportunities that gaming has to offer.

The psychology behind the effects of advertising in gaming are well documented. When players are focused and engaged in completing in-game challenges, brand engagement and purchase intent are strengthened. The role-play aspect of gaming takes people into an environment that mimics a real world, so seeing brands included in a natural, contextualised way has a positive impact on the audience’s favourability and recall.

Thanks to the popularity of the free-to-play (F2P) format, 98% of all mobile game revenues are generated through in-game transactions, so from clickable and non-clickable image and video ads, with user rewards as an option, to a click-to-purchase functionality that provides a direct conversion capability, there are endless ways in which brands can immerse themselves in a game. And contextual targeting means ads can be firmly focused on the right audience.

Gaming today covers a much broader range of demographics than it once did. The stereotypical image of the gamer has been knocked out of the park as women and professionals join the young, digital, tech-savvy consumers that are usually associated with the hobby.

Added to this, today’s gamers are people who have grown up with advertising, something whose implications are two fold: firstly they are far more readily accepting of advertising when it appears in their gaming worlds but, on the flip side, they have higher expectations for its role in their lives, demanding tailored, personalised and unobtrusive advertising.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. While they must treat gaming with the same strategic planning and analytical targeting as they would any other ad campaign, they can also do so in the knowledge it is a fast track to reaching an engaged audience with impactful and memorable advertising.

Which is something Publicis has identified and harnessed with their Publicis Play proposition. It will only be a matter of time before their network rivals are following suit in some shape or form.

If as a marketer you have not yet explored in-game advertising there is an urgent conversation pending with your media agency. To fail to obtain front row seats for the biggest advertising phenomenon of current times would certainly be regrettable, but to not even have a ticket to the show would be remiss in the extreme.

Tobias Knutsson is the CCO of Adverty

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