New heads in the game

Audiomob’s co-founder Christian Facey reveals the new gaming audiences are not who they seem.

Long gone are the days when advertising within games could only be found on a Monopoly board.

Now some 2.7 billion people – or around a third of the planet – play video games presenting advertisers with the unique opportunity to reach a vast group of highly engaged and attentive players.
The overall industry, meanwhile, presents a $159.3 billion market; one expected to grow to $200.8 billion by just 2023. 77% of that $200.8 billion – equalling $154.6 billion – is aiming to be catered to from in-game advertising revenue streams such as ads placed in games.

Diversity in games

Numbers in the billions are always fascinating to see, but what’s the most interesting is that these audiences are made up of an incredibly diverse group of distinct and intersecting demographics, whether you are talking age, income, interests, location or myriad other factors.

To those in the know it’s something of a surprise that not more brands have started to consider how gaming can be a significant opportunity for reaching new and unexpected audiences. Advertising through traditional methods is still the go-to, with brands spending 40 times less on advertising in games than on TV, even though audiences are spending four times more playing online games. The time is ripe for a non-intrusive approach to ads in games which comes with contextual strengths. Building this platform has taught us a great deal about the reality of the gaming audience.

The new generation of ‘gamers’ are too commonly misunderstood, as old stereotypes persist, and many imagine that the gaming audience is made up solely or predominantly of teenage males devoted to nerd culture. That audience might have tremendous value to certain brands, but they are just one of many groups that now put considerable time into games.

In truth, whether brands advertise financial services, sporting equipment, healthcare products or icons of popular music, you can be sure to find a perfect fit for your brand in games. Perhaps that sounds counterintuitive to you. Are there really gamers interested in financial services? The answer is unequivocally ‘yes’.

The true meaning of gamer

It’s an exciting time as we start to see brands begin to tap into unfiltered audiences, and though quickly understanding the true demographic diversity of those 2.7 billion gamers might not be possible given the large numbers, only a handful of recent insights provide a helpful snapshot to begin understanding the opportunity:

  • Globally, at least 63% of mobile gamers are women
  • In the US 44% of adults aged 50 and above play video games regularly
  • Also in the US, 49% of women play games regularly, compared to 40% of men
  • 71% of mothers play video games; a group found to be more likely than most to recommend brands to friends, and more likely to share products on social media
  • In the UK, 86% of people aged 16-to-69 have played video games in the last year. 54% play ‘on most days’

Ironically, many devoted video game players do not recognise themselves as ‘gamers’ with just a third of women in the UK who say they play games on most days identifying as a ‘gaming hobbyist’. Given the stereotype that gamers are young and male, this is hardly surprising, but the cliché of what a gamer is, is far from realistic or helpful.

There’s a very good chance a significant proportion of any demographic is engaged with gaming. Mobile dominates in terms of audience size, as we’ve seen, but is also the place where the most striking demographic variety is on display. Equally, mobile gamers have become very savvy and open-minded to consuming ads.

When it comes to devices, mobile still has the edge over other hardware formats, but it should be considered that of the 2.5 billion mobile players, many will also play PC and console games. There are believed to be 1.3 billion PC gamers out there, and 0.8 billion that enjoy console gaming. Inevitably, there will be some crossover between those audiences and the 2.5 billion mobile players.

The acceptance of ads

For many consumers it comes as little surprise that the most successful mobile games are ‘free-to-play’. Advertising has become more widely accepted and mobile users have understood that ads are what keep games entirely free. And the fact that the gaming medium is so engrossing and immersive means that when ads are served, players tend to be more engaged with the brands they see.

According to research by Tapjoy, consumers overall are most likely to be engaged with ads in mobile games, with 41% of them giving attention to those served. That contrasts to 17% focussing on ‘traditional’ online ad placements, the 15% stopping to digest magazines, and 15% that give billboards their time.

Games now have a common status as being live, connected, and maintained in online spaces. The communities that form within them often have strong bonds, as well as common interests and tastes, happily sharing relevant brands and content between them.

How to reach relevant communities and demographics from the pool of billions of players? That comes down to selecting the right partners and technology. That’s easier said than done, of course, but the process of selection starts with considering what you want to get from harnessing the gaming opportunity – and what the challenges are.

Marketers have always faced a perennial issue with blending creative content, creative delivery and robust data. Many questions need to be addressed when enacting an ad campaign within mobile games. Is the ad good, and does it have the necessary elements required to connect with the audience? Is the delivery mechanism of the creative – the ad format itself – reliable and impactful? Does it reach the right people, and engage without intruding? Does it sit within the content appropriately? Is the data you rely on appropriate for your required targeting, and do you have a means to measure the performance of a given campaign in some way?

As part of answering all those questions, one needs to consider today’s audiences. We’re living in a time where the reality is that the consumer is very savvy about ads and technology, very short on time, has a low attention span, and is extremely privacy conscious.

As such, to be effective, ads ideally need to be delivered into mobile games non-intrusively, while grabbing the user’s attention. The ad must equally have a call to action with a measurable delivery mechanism, like a clickable banner. Data must be acquired that can be used without invading users’ personal information – with contextual ads offering the ideal way forward there. Contextual is a proven approach, and uses data from devices, not individuals. That means an ad can be precisely targeted based on behaviour, without requiring personal or individual information.

Ultimately, it comes down to picking the right kind of ad technology – and the right partner – for your next campaign. In an era when the vast spread of gamers is savvy and even opinionated about ads’ role in games, non-intrusive formats are the way to go. Equally, contextual is now the most effective approach. That means looking to cutting edge solutions that also respect the contextual tradition. Choose wisely, and your brand could be chiming meaningfully with vast and ideal audiences – something most marketers and advertisers would dream of.

Christian Facey

Christian Facey (Forbes 30 Under 30, 2021) is CEO and co-founder of AudioMob, the world’s first non-intrusive gaming advertising solution that allows game developers to monetise their audiences via audio advertising. AudioMob, a VC-backed company that recently closed $2m in funding, is tackling an $18bn dollar opportunity. Before founding AudioMob in Q1 2020 Christian worked at two of the best companies in the world. He was a strategist at Google, managing up to $100m in advertising spend. At Facebook, a marketing science partner, using cutting edge solutions to measure the true value of advertising. As a result of his successes, Christian also runs a mentoring scheme alongside AudioMob to pass learning over to the younger generation. Outside running AudioMob and mentoring schemes, Christian enjoys video game development, producing hip-hop/jazz music and break dancing.

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