In-Game Advertising

Why You Should Add Game Advertising to Your Marketing Strategy

June 8, 2023
5 Minutes

There are around 3.7 billion people who regularly immerse themselves in the world of gaming. This accounts for over 80% of internet users across the globe - a number that’s continuing to increase every year. 

This means that, among the 10 internet-savvy colleagues you interact with, at least eight are possibly a casual gamer. Perhaps they play a quick game of CandyCrush between meetings, or play a regular puzzle game with their kids in the evenings. 

Gaming is no longer reserved for teenagers who rely on their parents’ bank accounts. High-earning executives play mobile games while in transit from one meeting or city to another and old high school friends, who are now doctors and engineers, stay connected by playing online games regularly.🕹️

If you don't include gaming in your marketing strategy, you might be overlooking a large group of enthusiastic and willing-to-spend consumers from various backgrounds. 

In this article, we find out what game advertising entails, determine whether it’s profitable, and outline the pros and cons of including it in your marketing strategy.

Understanding Game Advertising and Its Evolution

The first gaming advert dates back to 1978 when Scott Adams advertised upcoming products within his already-popular game, “Adventureland”.

This was the first text-based video game, and it required players to read the character’s storyline and select actions from a multiple-choice menu. There were no graphics, only text, meaning that the first gaming advert was a simple, catchy phrase encouraging players to buy other games.

Fast-forward to today, where games have turned into fully immersive experiences through virtual reality, and provide entertainment at the push of a button on every person’s mobile device. Regular static advertising is not longer enough. Game advertising has evolved and it’s now possible to target audiences with dynamic content that updates in real time. 

Game advertising falls into three categories: in-game, around the game, and away from the game. Let's take a more detailed look at each:

1. In-Game Advertising

While playing a game, you may recognise certain brands on your screen. Perhaps your character is wearing Nike shorts, or maybe they jumped over a building with a huge KFC banner.

In-game advertising seamlessly integrates with the game you’re playing. It’s as though the ad is part of the world that you’re playing in rather than real life.

Take the EA Sports FIFA series as an example. This renowned football game made around $1.6 billion between 2020 and 2021.⚽

In the game, you control a football team and play against other teams in the league. This takes place in a virtual stadium, where you can have standoffs with friends or play against the computer.

The above image demonstrates an in-game ad for Sky Sports and the Premier League. Neither of them interferes with your gameplay, but they’re easy to read and hard to overlook. Major video streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube are already capitalising on this ad space.

A ComScore Report suggests that only 18% of gamers prefer fake advertisements in-game, meaning that 72% of gamers actually prefer authentic, real-life and relevant  advertisements to be displayed in games.

FIFA’s in-game advertising mimics the advertisements you see on real football pitches. In a sense, including this makes the field look realistic, so it’s a win-win for both advertisers and gamers.

2. Around the Game Ads

Instead of integrating campaigns into gameplay, around-the-game advertisements pop up when you start/pause a game, or go between levels. For example, around the game ads might pop up on your menu as you're assembling your team or picking a tournament.

In some cases, these ads can offer you game-related bonuses, often referred to as rewarded ads. By agreeing to watch an ad, you're rewarded with an in-game perk.

For example, someone playing a mobile FIFA game, may have the opportunity to watch an ad in exchange for “Field Energy X3.” This approach motivates gamers to watch ads by offering a tangible reward, rather than forcing them to interact with ads. Check out the example below to see how gamers can acquire "extra Energy":

The most popular formats for around-the-game ads include rewarded, interstitial, playable, and banner ads.

Level Up here for more on: Interstitial Ads vs Rewarded Ads: Which One Performs Better For Gaming Apps?

3. Away from the Game Ads

It’s important to keep your audience engaged – even when they’re not gaming. Away from the game ads target gamers outside of typical gaming spaces.

In some cases, these kinds of ads may be encountered while gamers are immersed in their gaming communities. Platforms, such as Twitch, often provide the perfect environment to test new marketing strategies.

Take our earlier FIFA example. Imagine a YouTube streamer broadcasting a live FIFA match they're playing. In the midst of the game, the streamer takes a moment to thank a sponsor for their support, sharing details about the product they provide with their audience.  

Similarly, YouTube’s integrated ads can be used to advertise to FIFA fans through content they seek out on the platform, such as gameplay tips and tricks.

How Effective is Gaming Advertising?

In 2022, the multinational chocolate manufacturer, Hershey’s, had a trial run of in-game advertising. Their marketing agency partnered with an AdTech gaming company to find out whether in-game advertising would increase its reach and boost profits.

Their test subject was "Oh Henry!", a candy bar with roots dating back to the 1920s. They crafted a fresh slogan, "Level Up", and set out on a six-week campaign targeting gamers who were over the age of 18, and engaged on a range of games from premium sports titles to casual games.

They chose in-game advertising, strategically placing their ads on virtual billboards and stadium screens within the gaming environment. Below, you can see how seamlessly it integrates within a racing game:

The campaign achieved nearly 21.9 million impressions, as well as a 6.9-point uplift in purchase intent. Post campaign surveys of the target audience showed a 7.6-point increase in “Satisfies My Hunger” and an 8.4-point surge in “Provides a Boost of Energy”. 

This clearly illustrates the efficacy of game advertising in making positive impacts on players and reviving brands, even those established as far back as the early 1900s, for a modern audience.

In a press release, the CEO of the marketing agency behind the campaign, GumGum, emphasised the staying power of in-game advertising. “It offers brands the opportunity to reach gamers during the 3 billion hours of gaming played across the world,” they explained.  

Ready to achieve similar – if not better – results, you can level up with iion. Together, we can introduce your brand to the lucrative gaming community. 🎮

The Advantages of Gaming Advertising

There are many benefits to including game advertising in your marketing strategy.

 Here are the reasons why it is worth investing in game advertising: 

1. Establish Authentic Connections and Cultivate Loyalty

Players develop deep emotional connections to the virtual worlds they explore. They spend hours building their characters and log in every day to receive their daily quest bonuses.

World of Warcraft (WoW) players are particularly passionate about their factions: Horde or Alliance. Some gamers even have real-life tattoos of their faction, such as “For the Horde”.

Mountain Dew recognised this loyalty and created exclusive drinks for each faction. Horde got a citrus cherry flavour and Alliance got a wild fruit flavour. This away-from-the-game campaign was so engaging that empty bottles from the promotion are still being sold for a whopping $9.99 on eBay.

If you’re able to connect with a gaming community and authentically join their world, your brand may become as ingrained in their lives as their beloved characters.

2.  Increase Your Brand’s Visibility and Awareness

According to a recent survey, 70% of mobile phone users prefer playing games rather than scrolling through social media or chatting with loved ones. They also found that 71% of respondents used their phones while watching TV.

By restricting your marketing strategy to social media and TV ads, you may not be able to stay relevant to your target market. If you add gaming advertising to your repertoire, you will be able to remain visible to your customers as their attention moves towards gaming.

3. Access to Diverse Demographics 

Games cater to a wide variety of demographics, such as gender, age, and cultural background. You can travel to an enchanted forest where you transform yourself into a sword-wielding dwarf, or you can remain in your seat and solve challenging online puzzles – there’s a game for everyone.

With advancements in technology, expanding network coverage, and the widespread adoption of mobile devices, the accessibility of gaming has expanded. Developing countries, such as those in Africa and Southeast Asia, are rapidly joining the ranks of other global gamers.

4. Receive Measurable Results and Data Insights

If you work through a company that specialises in game advertising (ahem, like iion), you will have access to a range of valuable performance metrics. This may include impressions, clicks, click-through rates (CTR), conversions, and engagement rates.

You will also be able to target segments that are most likely to resonate with your brand, and you can use A/B testing to perfect your gaming adverts and improve your conversions.

Through iion, you will receive a full rundown of the performance of your adverts. This includes comprehensive data analytics tools and reporting tools.

5.  Capture an Audience that’s Highly Engaged

It has been reported that more than 9.2 million gamers have played Candy Crush for at least 3 hours a day. This is an extraordinary amount of time for a simplistic mobile game, and it shows how engaging games can be.

Games require your attention unlike other on-screen entertainment, such as on-demand streaming services. You need to stay focused if you want to earn a high score or secure a rewards chest. Therefore, gamers are unlikely to be zoned out or multitasking in another activity, and they’re more likely to notice your ads.

Level Up: Mobile Game Ads: Strategies & Recommendations for Publishers

The Challenges of Gaming Advertising

Game advertising, just like any other kind of advertising, has its own limitations and challenges. Here are some of the most notable challenges you should be aware of:

1. Ad Avoidance, Saturation, and Fatigue

Ads that interrupt gameplay can annoy gamers. If they keep seeing the same ads that don't seem relevant, they might start to ignore them. Ads in the wrong places can make gamers so frustrated that they may abandon a game altogether. You need to make sure your ads reach the right gamers and that they are more welcome than annoying. 

By using attention measurement software, such as Amplified Intelligence, you can measure how gamers’ react to your ads and adjust your campaign until it fits just right with your target market.

2. Ad Measurement and Attribution

If you have an in-game ad, you won’t be able to determine whether your ad impacted the gamer you targeted. They’re preoccupied with the game they’re playing and won’t be able to prove that they were touched by your ad. 

This is where effective survey software, such as Lucid Impact Measurement, comes in. By asking gamers how they experienced your ad, you will be able to get the data you need to measure success.  

3. Ad Fraud and Data Manipulation

Since gaming is highly lucrative and it’s developing in a rapidly growing market, fraudsters have realised they can take advantage of unsuspecting ad managers. They give them inaccurate data, such as fake impressions, and commission bots to view ads to misrepresent their performance.

This wastes advertising budgets and erodes trust within the marketing industry. Luckily, there’s a movement that works against this. Pixalate, a fraud prevention platform, has developed an API that processes and detects non-human traffic. They ensure that your gaming ads aren’t swarmed with bots that will mislead your data.

At iion, we're committed to helping you tackle gaming advertising effectively. That's why we've teamed up with the companies mentioned earlier in this text, so you can have reliable data and precise feedback.

If you’re ready to upskill your marketing strategy, why not partner with iion? We’re excited to embark on an epic adventure with you and your brand. 🧙‍♂️

Ready to join the game?

Game advertising is quickly taking over. It won’t be long before it becomes a necessary platform for marketers to use if they want to stay relevant to their target market.

It’s important to diversify your marketing portfolio. There may be an entire segment within your target market that remains untouched because you’re not advertising on the right platform. 

You can set out on this journey as a single player, or you can team up with iion. We will connect your brand with the best game publishers on the market, and give you the tools you need to reach your audience as they become gaming enthusiasts. ⚔

Find out how to bring your brand to life in games – start your great adventure with iion.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the three types of game advertising?
    Gaming ads can be static, which means that they remain constant and don’t change. For example, you can include a banner ad in-game that stays the same, regardless of the viewer or timing. These are easy to manage, but they can sometimes be a hit-and-miss because they’re not personalised.
    On the other hand, dynamic gaming ads change depending on the audience. If a gamer fits your target audience, a dynamic ad will register this in real-time and display your ad to them.
    For example, let’s assume you have two versions of the same ad. If the viewer is under 35, they will receive an ad that caters to their youth, and if they’re older than 35, they will receive an ad that caters to their wisdom.
    Finally, you can invest in advergaming. This is when your brand creates and actively participates in a game.
    In 2011, Magnum challenged fans to find hidden ice creams on partner websites. The Magnum Pleasure Hunt was similar to Super Mario, which drew in over 1 million players.
  1. How can advertisers ensure a balance between ad frequency and placement?
    Ad frequency is how often gamers are exposed to a particular advert, and ad placement is the location in which they are exposed to your ad. You can balance these in the following ways:
    Target the Right Audience: The perfect ad will fail if it’s presented in the wrong way. Gain a deep understanding of your audience to determine the optimal frequency and placement.
    Use of Frequency Capping: You can prevent an advert from being displayed to the same gamer too many times by setting a restriction on its display frequency.
    Monitor User Feedback and Performance: Keep track of the data. Test different options and survey gamers to determine what works and what doesn’t. 
  2. What are the benefits of virtual reality in game advertising?
    Virtual Reality (VR) is a three-dimensional environment that gamers can access by using a VR headset. In 2018, it was estimated that 171 million VR users already existed in the world. 
    Unlike other forms of gaming, virtual reality gaming allows users to be fully immersed in a completely different world. This means that they’re able to create more memorable and impactful experiences, leading to greater brand recall.
  3. What is augmented reality advertising?
    Augmented Reality (AR) combines the real world with virtual reality. Users can walk around their usual life while having it obscured by a fantasy world.
    Pokémon Go is a great example of this. Gamers can walk around their real-life neighbourhoods looking for Pokémon. They can view these fantastical creatures on their mobile phones, which uses their camera to combine the real-world and Pokémon characters.
  4. What game marketing strategies are there?
    There are many strategies you can use to promote your products or services within games. Here are three of the most effective strategies you should consider:
    Gaming Advertising: This is when you advertise in-game, around the game, and away from the game. You place a static or dynamic ad in an optimal position for gamers to see.
    Influencer Marketing: There are YouTube and Twitch streamers who are famous in the gaming community. By sponsoring their content, you can reach a large network of gamers.
    Sponsorships and Partnerships: You can directly partner with game publishers so that they feature your brand alongside their own releases.

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