Why brands need to get in on the mobile in-app gaming phenomenon

With the rise and ubiquity of mobile apps, gaming is a niche interest no longer.

The word “gamer” may still conjure up a stereotypical image or two, but research paints a different picture entirely. According to a 2018 Electronic Entertainment Design and Research study, 67 percent of Americans play video games on at least one platform, with 90 percent of those 211.2 million people specifically playing games not on their PC or console, but on their mobile device.

Add in the fact that women comprise 49 percent of all mobile gamers, as shown in a 2017 Google Play and NewZoo survey, and you’ll see a diverse landscape begin to emerge.

“Gamers” are now nearly synonymous with everyday consumers — and it’s time for traditional advertisers to pay attention.

“A large majority of our ads are currently coming from other mobile game advertisers, not brands,” says Edouard Favier, marketing director at mobile game publisher PikPok. “Currently, less than 10 percent of our ad revenue in the US is coming from non-gaming campaigns — which is a very low percentage if we compare the percentage of brand ads in other ad formats such as mobile web or desktop web.”

However, not all brands have been lagging on advertisement through mobile games, with leaders like Disney and Toyota in particular taking charge. “We’ve been working a lot with CPG companies, particularly some advertisers who have iconic mascots or iconic characters that they’d like to leverage in a more interactive environment,” says Casey Campbell, senior director of advertising at Gameloft.

“Touchscreen devices really bring a new element of tactile interaction that these traditional advertisers have never really had before — now their audience is able to touch their content and actually do something with it,” he explains. “There are tons of opportunities for traditional advertisers to leverage their investment in a really new, unique and interactive format, on mobile.”

But aside from these specific outliers, why do most other traditional brands have yet to embrace in-app mobile game advertising? Wynands believes that it comes down to a lack of crucial information. “I think that the reason could be that brands don’t understand the mobile gaming audience very well and still perceive mobile gamers as a stereotype of a young and geeky male teenager,” he explains.

Since the invention of smartphones and the explosion of personal mobile devices, however, this stereotype couldn’t be more archaic. For one thing, the age range of gamers is far less narrow than it used to be. Certain types of games (for instance, word-match and word-search apps) have even earned a reputation for attracting Gen X’ers, boomers and beyond.

“Touchscreen devices and the free to play model really expanded the audience,” explained Campbell, “so that now the stereotype around people who enjoy games is no longer valid at all.”  

“It’s really everyone [gaming],” Campbell added, “from kids to middle-aged moms and some seniors. Advertisers should know that the gaming audience is really broad and it can be segmented and targeted in many ways. So you can do that by age, gender, interests, location — all sorts of things.”

According to Carol Miu, senior director of product management at PeopleFun, brands need to understand the opportunities that in-app mobile game advertising can afford them — especially when compared to traditional media.

“I think that it is potentially harder to reach users using traditional media,” Miu explains. “A lot of users nowadays pay for premium content on Netflix, HBO GO or Hulu and whatnot. So they’re purposefully paying for an ad-free experience.”

Visibility isn’t the only thing that mobile game ad experiences can offer advertisers that traditional media can’t. “There are a lot of tools out there to allow us to AB test,” says Miu. “We also test a lot of ads on the user acquisition side and the data there is just so rich. I can tie the return on ad spend back to individual cohorts and individual sources.”

Of course, exploring new advertising terrain comes coupled with new costs, but Campbell feels that brands don’t have much to worry about — even when it comes to customizable content. “There’s a concern around the barrier to entry; they don’t know how much it costs,” he explains. “But what we’ve surprised [advertisers] with is that it’s often less than the cost of creating a video asset to build a really cool, custom branded interactive playable experience.”

And that custom branded playable experience can lead to some impressive KPIs. Campbell notes that when a user plays a branded mini-game — essentially a playable ad unit — the user will immediately re-engage at a rate of up to 25 percent.

For marketers still in the dark on the capabilities of in-app mobile advertising, it’s time to take a closer look — or risk facing a “game over” against the competition.

This article is part of a series on mobile game advertising presented by AdColony.

https://digiday.com/?p=342014