In-Game Advertising: Not Mass Market….Yet
In-game advertising may lack the widespread appeal of other ad platforms but can be effective in engaging audiences, a survey suggests. New Media Knowledge took a look at in-game advertising’s potential.
In-game advertising is “not mass market but massive in its market”, according to research out this month. Last year UK consumers spend £1.9 billion on packaged games (Screen Digest), demonstrating the potential reach of ads placed in games and a study by Continental Research appears to suggest that ad recall can be healthy.
The group carried 12 ad effectiveness studies, finding that average ad recall was more than half (54 per cent) with two-thirds of the 500 gamers questioned believing that in-game ads made the experience “more realistic”.
These gamers, Continental Research says, are likely to talk to their friends about gadgets and brands, and form part of the crucial word-of-mouth marketing chain.
“Our research has shown that brands that are advertising to gamers are reaching affluent, brand-literate young men, who readily accept advertising as part of the gaming experience. They are also influential consumers, recommending products and brands to their friends and to others through online reviews,” said James Myring, director of media at Continental Research. “Whilst in-game advertising doesn’t have the broad reach of TV or radio, it does have the advantage of enjoying very high levels of engagement and the ability to target young men through the many different titles available.”
So whose job is it to get organisations marketing via games? John Barton, head of planning at digital marketing agency Steak, believes his peers have a critical role to play in raising the profile of in-game advertising among their client base.
“As it is largely down to agencies to promote emerging technology and communications channels to clients I suspect that this grey area is a contributing factor toward its lack of adoption so far,” he told NMK. “The problem here is that clients still expect digital planning to be rationalised by behaviour and more importantly accurate accountability. Even for what we might term ‘traditional’ digital branding campaigns we are seeing a shift in key performance indicators (KPIs) from principles of simple reach and click-through rates (CTRs) to brand response. With the exception of [virtual world] Second Life, users cannot currently translate their actions within the gaming environment directly into real world.”
Beyond consoles and PC gaming, mobile is also an exciting platform for in-game advertising. Mobile gaming is a “highly personal and always on” option for marketers to reach consumers, according to Patrick Mork of mobile games specialist GetJar.
Mork believes that the organisations which will enjoy the most success in mobile in-game ads will be the ones whose execution does not interfere with the overall gaming experience, for example, before the game starts or between levels.
“The quality and variety of mobile games now becoming available coupled with the accessibility app stores create make it an attractive advertising platform but as of today the key to the economics of in-game advertising is that it remains unclear how much appetite there exists from actual advertisers,” he said.
Mork added that consumers could benefit if ad revenue generated lowers the cost of mobile gaming.
Pick Up Sticks
"Online games give great opportunities for advertising, both on the web page and within the game,” explained Paul Collins, director of Stick Sports. “Just as sponsors can place logos on perimeter advertising boards, stadiums, players' kit and even on the pitch itself, so you can do exactly the same thing in-game.”
Stick Sports offers a variety of different ad formats, including leaderboards, mid-page units (MPUs), rich media, video pre-rolls, custom page and site takeovers in its games. The company also provides direct marketing vouchers and collect data and opt-ins.
"Brands can sponsor an individual game type, or we can create bespoke games and campaigns for clients. All that's needed is a widget from the food company that we can pull into the page to sit alongside the game. Given that many of our users are playing games in their leisure time - in the evening or during lunch breaks - it's a natural to progression to enable them to order food while playing games,” Collins added.
The Long Game
Steak’s Barton believes that in-game advertising is here to stay and could form an important part of the marketing mix to hit certain demographics, but it may take some time to become a mainstream marketing discipline.
“Of course, there is a solid argument to be made in favour of in-game engagement, share of voice and targeting a likely demographic. However, until the issue of behaviour and accurate accountability is tackled either directly or via cross channel strategy, I suspect it will take a while before we see IGA as a regular fixture on digital media plans,” he concluded.
Read NMK’s “Rough Guide” to in-game advertising here.