4th January 2024
Written by Cameron Archbold, Senior Account Director, Mindshare WW
I’ve always had a love for video games. They provide a fantastic form of escapism and storytelling that is so different from any other platform. The online gaming community is a diverse, global network of players connected by a shared love for gaming. Through multiplayer interactions, social media, and streaming platforms, gamers collaborate, compete, and build friendships across borders. This community thrives on a collective passion for interactive entertainment, fostering a unique and inclusive virtual environment.
Mindshare research found that 48% of 18- to 44-year-old global respondents engage in digital communities, more than in real-life communities. With this in mind, I outline 5 ways brands can leverage in-gaming advertising and why it matters. Videogames are currently a rather untapped space for mainstream advertising. I mean console/PC games, rather than mobile games since they are far from ad-free.
Gaming is no longer confined to a specific demographic. The stereotypical image of a gamer as a teenage boy in a dark basement is outdated. Today, gamers span all age groups, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer in the United States is 35, and 41% of gamers are female. This diverse audience provides advertisers with a unique opportunity to reach a wide range of consumers.
One of the key advantages of advertising in gaming is the unparalleled level of engagement it offers. Gamers are active participants in the content, spending hours immersed in virtual worlds. Unlike traditional forms of advertising, which may be ignored or skipped, in-game advertising becomes an integral part of the gaming experience. Advertisers can leverage this high level of engagement to create memorable and impactful experiences. To bring this to life, consider Colonel KI for KFC China. Since 2015, the gaming community has been a core strategic pillar for KFC, with countless industry firsts developed under a strict focus on developing the restaurant’s connection with gamers. We first created the concept of Colonel KI in 2018, building an AI-based match predictor for League of Legends matches. It was a hit, showcasing how the brand could add real value to consumers – not just through discounts but by adding a new layer of excitement to their passion point. You can read more about this work in our China CEO, Ben Condit's article.
Gone are the days of intrusive and disruptive advertising. In-game advertising has evolved to seamlessly integrate brands into the gaming experience. From billboards and product placements in virtual environments to branded items within the game, advertisers can weave their messages into the fabric of the gaming world. This subtlety enhances brand recall and fosters a positive association between the brand and the gaming experience. That said, I believe the real potential exists in true integration and experiences. For example, when we compare this type of advertising in sports, it is true that ads in our peripheral vision catch our attention when watching motor racing or soccer when the eye drifts as the action continues. However, it isn’t clear that this is the case in video games and the key difference is control. The eye drifts watching sports as you aren’t concentrating as you aren’t in control of the game. The immersion of a video game is completely different from the passive nature of consuming sports, as you stare at the screen. Ads need to go beyond replicating their real-life counterparts in sports games, those experiences that challenge this and can enhance the game, integrating seamlessly into this environment will stand out.
One of the significant advantages of advertising in gaming is the wealth of data and analytics available to advertisers. In-game platforms can provide valuable insights into player behavior, preferences, and demographics. This data allows advertisers to tailor campaigns with precision, ensuring that their message reaches the right audience at the right time. For example, as marketers, we consistently look at time spent on platforms to inform our channel mix. UK’s Ofcom 2023 report highlighted that 43% of adults playing video games on their consoles/computers spend on average at least an hour a day playing. That is valuable time, longer than the average users of Instagram and on-trend TikTok.
For advertisers to engage with gamers, they must meet them on their level and be native to their environment, finding authentic ways to integrate into this community and become part of the culture. Understand that ultimately it is a social experience and the stereotype of gamers is long gone.