Did you know that over 3 billion people worldwide are playing games? This article delves into mobile game advertising trends and strategies for developing successful brand relationships in mobile games, based on insights from a recent Gamesforum webinar.
In today's media landscape, brands are consistently seeking new ways to engage with and capture their target audience's attention.
Mobile gaming is a platform that is gaining significant traction. Valuable insights can be gained from mobile gamers, such as device preferences and payment methods, which makes them an attractive target for many brands.
Jamie Lewin from Mana Partners says that brands are attracted to mobile gamers because they provide an engaged audience with focused attention. "Casual mobile games use ad formats such as rewarded video, which perform better than any other in this area of engaged attention," he says.
Mobile gaming attracts the same audience as platforms like Netflix or traditional TV. Research suggests that while ad spend for users in gaming is currently still half of that for TV, the total audience size worldwide in gaming is equivalent, if not larger than the worldwide TV audience.
Brands also need to recognize that there is a wide range of individuals among “gamers” and they need to re-evaluate their ideas around the traditional notion of gamers being twenty-year-olds playing MineCraft with their friends.
Both Akshit and Jamie emphasize the need for brands to understand that 'gamers' are not a homogeneous audience. With over 3 billion people playing games worldwide, this group includes individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds, interests, and game preferences.
Ultimately, Brands must adapt to the changing audience landscape and move away from traditional channels to engage with mobile gamers effectively. One way of doing this is for brands to tailor their advertising strategies to the specific audience they aim to reach within the gaming community.
Despite the potential benefits, many brands appear reluctant to engage with mobile gamers. According to Akshit, one of the biggest reasons for this is that brands are hesitant to advertise in mobile gaming because the industry is fragmented.
He adds, "Brands often struggle to comprehend the power of hyper-casual and mobile games, leading to concerns about measurement, scalability, and reliability."
Brands tend to associate mobile advertising with performance advertising but they need to recognize the potential for awareness and top-of-the-funnel campaigns. However, brands are starting to see the value of mobile gaming as an advertising channel as more metrics and reliable measurement tools become available.
Jamie acknowledges that there are gaps in the industry, but notes that there's a clear opportunity to address these gaps. Consumer attention and brand spend should be in alignment. “Gaming advertising is in its development stage. And if you look at the trajectory that Facebook took on, you'd see it took about a decade for user engagement and brand spend to match,” Jamie explains.
Another gap is messaging and the fact that brands sometimes find the idea of connecting with players intimidating, as they tend to be opinionated and vocal. However, Jamie notes that by involving the target audience in strategy and ideation, brands can ensure resonance with that audience and remove the intimidating aspects of connecting with them.
Sheetal Bairamadgi, the founder of Crikey Games in Australia, says for brands to start seeing the impact of game advertising, there is a need for market education and data-driven decision-making.
She explains that brands require tools and platforms that provide information, such as viewability, engagement rate, and click-through rate (CTR), to build trust and confidence in mobile gaming partnerships.
Discussing the approach that brands should take, Sheetal says that brands should aim for engagement over visibility. Rather than treating in-game ads as billboards, brands should strive for engagement and action from gamers.
The panellists discuss the value of developing brand relationships in mobile games rather than relying solely on traditional performance campaigns.
Sheetal suggested that brands need to understand and value game audience engagement as it forms the foundation for successful brand-gamer relationships.
"In comparison to intrusive ads generated by ad networks for performance campaigns, a brand-centric ad that aligns with the game environment greatly enhances the user experience," Sheetal explains further.
Akshit reveals that publishers are actively seeking brand partnerships. As they look to diversify their revenue strategies and tackle the rising costs of user acquisition. “By drawing in brand investments, publishers can inject new budget life into the gaming ecosystem, which may, in turn, lead to heightened CPM rates and extended user engagement,” says Akshit.
The discussion brings to light successful cases of brand and publisher collaborations in mobile games.
Jamie brings up Call of Duty as an example, where Burger King found its way into the game, tapping into the game's robust consumer monetization model. However, such collaborations are few and far between, given Call of Duty's primary focus on in-game purchases and seasonal monetization.
Another top game publisher Garena, which published League of Legends on behalf of Riot Games, embraces partnerships with brands rather than allowing direct advertising in their games.
For instance, they collaborated with beauty brand, Maybelline, by licensing character art and logo intellectual property (IP). Maybelline then created custom limited-edition products that were made available through e-commerce, complemented by a prompt in the game's loading screen to let users know this event existed.
As you can see, the future holds a great deal of promise when it comes to brand relationships in mobile games.
It’s important for measurement and tracking mechanisms to be an integral part of a partnership to demonstrate the value to brands of such partnership collaborations. Jamie says.
Jamie continues, "Brands, particularly in the media industry, rely on syndicated research platforms like Global Web Index (GWI) to create audience profiles and understand media and content behaviour."
For example, when his company Mana Partners joined forces with McDonald's in Southeast Asia, they used GWI to get a handle on the mobile gaming habits of their target audience—18 to 24-year-olds who regularly dined at McDonald's. However, Jamie highlights the need to also carry out ethnographic research and watch how mobile devices are used in real life to give a better context. According to him, you need both volumetric research and consumer insights to fully understand the market.
Tracking brand perception, purchase propensity, and overall brand impact are key to evaluating the success of brand-publisher collaborations. By connecting game IDs to customer data platforms, you're able to gain useful insights into the cost per impact on brand scores, cost per fail, and the final value of the partnership. This information can help brands understand the impact and return on investment (ROI) of your involvement in mobile games.
Akshit adds, "Brands need to understand what is and isn't working, especially when it comes to new ad formats like in-game advertising. Publishers should be able to demonstrate the value that brands can expect from these ad formats." By looking at ad performance through similar media metrics, you can check the input (like CPM or eCPM) and outcome (such as CPA) of ad placements to see how effective they are.
Jamie shares that there are three ways that brands can measure the success of their campaigns: ad placements, sponsorships, and partnerships.
It's not just about informative metrics, it's about becoming part of a broader conversation and developing relationships that contribute to your brand's growth.
Sheetal encourages early-stage discussions with brands during game development to fully unlock the benefits of collaboration. Involving both the agency or brand and the developer, allows for ideation and innovative ideas that align with the brand's perspective and that resonates with gaming audiences in a positive way.
"The brand is a valuable asset for game developers, providing support in marketing, PR, and driving higher eCPMs for monetization. This enables us to allocate more resources towards effective marketing strategies," Sheetal says.
Jamie, who has worked both on the agency and publisher side, says publishers need to communicate the value of their games, educate brands about the benefits of game advertising partnerships and access to audiences before seeking an investment.
Jamie advises, "Be prepared to be the voice of the player. If you feel that the brand's ideas are intrusive or detrimental to the player experience, it's your responsibility to voice that concern." He also points out that it's not merely about buying attention but an exchange of value. "Brands should focus on establishing a mutually beneficial value exchange by providing gamers with something valuable in return for their attention, such as in-game rewards or exclusive content.”
Jamie emphasizes that publishers should communicate the emotional connection between their games and its fanbase. This showcases the added value of sponsorship and partnership for brands.
These strategies will likely play a vital role in how publishers approach game development and collaborations with brands in the future.
The mobile gaming industry presents a unique opportunity for brands to engage with a diverse and global audience. As brands increasingly recognize this potential, the industry is evolving to address concerns and provide robust measurement tools.
Publishers can unlock new revenue streams and enhance user experience by fostering meaningful brand relationships and integrating ads seamlessly into their games.
The key to success lies in understanding the diverse gaming audience, creating a value exchange, and focusing on engagement over visibility.
As the mobile gaming industry continues to evolve, will your brand adapt to seize these opportunities?