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Advertising in gaming is much more than mere child’s play

Sep 2, 2019
Advertising in gaming is much more than mere child’s play

Typical advertising platforms like television and radio have long been used by marketers to great effect. However, their position as the default medium of choice may be coming to an end due to rising costs and reduced ROI. Although there’s still demand for these traditional platforms, marketers have had their heads turned by a growing market: gaming.

Advertising needs gaming

Whether it’s conventional console games or mobile games, there’s no denying that the future of advertising lies in gaming. Gaming represents an unbelievable opportunity – unlike TV or radio, gamers are fully immersed in their activity and can’t switch channel or station to avoid an ad they don’t like. They are in effect already in ‘downtime mode’ so any momentary diversion from their game will be accepted more willingly. 

Gaming is surpassing many traditional industries like film – its estimated that gamer spend will exceed $152 billion in 2019 alone, a 9.6% increase on the previous year. Gaming represents a hugely lucrative opportunity that marketers simply cannot afford to ignore.  

Ads in games have evolved

Whenever the world is exposed to a new medium you can count on marketers to be waiting in the wings ready to exploit it. Ever since the invention of video games in the 1970s, marketers have sought to utilise ads in gaming. In 1978, the game ‘Adventureland’ included its first product placement, advertising the game’s sequel, ‘Pirate Adventure’. Today, ads in games have evolved significantly from static banners to the highly sophisticated and interactive content we see today.

Big names raise gaming’s profile

A celeb endorsement can do wonders for the fortunes of a brand. So, imagine what an endorsement can do for an already successful game – it results in the fanfare we saw surrounding Fortnite. Antoine Griezmann was just a number of high-profile footballers obsessed with the battle royale format game. As Les Bleus triumphed to a second World Cup victory in Russia last summer, Griezmann celebrated his goal with a customary Fortnite dance. When you think that the final was broadcast to an audience as big as 3.5 billion, that’s one hell of a publicity job!

The relationship between gaming and celebrity can be mutually beneficial too. Frank Ocean demonstrated this with his radio station launched on Grand Theft Auto in partnership with Apple Music. ‘Blonded Radio’ went live in 2017, four years after Grand Theft Auto V was released, as part of an online update. Despite the results being near impossible to quantify, it’s fair to assume that GTA as a franchise and the musician would have benefitted from some fan crossover.

Fifa’s blueprint

As advertising becomes an ever-familiar feature of gaming, advertisers will have to be smart about their approach to incorporating ads. Fifa have provided the perfect template for in-game ads that don’t interfere with gameplay; every stadium that features in the game includes advertising boards around the pitch, making gameplay realistic while simultaneously enabling advertising opportunities that don’t adversely impact gameplay.

Moreover, the game’s story mode feature – which follows the journey of young budding footballer to established pro – facilitates ad space for household names like Coca Cola and Adidas. This feature is a detailed insight into the life and career of a footballer, exploring contract negotiations and product endorsements in such a natural way that ads don’t feel forced.

Gaming represents a bounty of opportunity for marketers, but this opportunity must be balanced with caution. As gamers grow increasingly resistant to advertising like internet users have by installing AdBlock on their browsers, marketers will need to be creative with how they position ads and ensure they don’t hamper user experience.

Does the future of advertising lie in gaming? Is there another medium that would be better suited? Tweet us @otbtweeter with your thoughts.


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