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From creative freedom to the ability to reach elusive audiences, Peter Jacobs and Luke Aldridge, Client Partners at Dentsu Aegis Network, take a look at what makes gaming’s offering distinct

Gaming is at an all-time high in 2020 and will continue to grow as technology evolves and  provides more sophisticated and immersive experiences. Increased number of gamers,  session length and engagement across the board has led to esports and gaming gaining more  mainstream attention than ever, moving into the wider public consciousness. We believe this  momentum can catapult gaming into becoming a main media channel for brands and agencies  over the next five years and beyond.   

As of 2018, there were 37.3 million people playing online games in the UK. Those players  collectively spent £3.5 billion, making the UK the 6th biggest gaming market in the world. This  is forecast to grow to £4.4 billion by 2022, with an audience surpassing 40 million people.  Gaming, then, is already a huge part of UK culture with a highly diverse audience – an almost even male/female distribution and an average age of 32 when smartphone gaming is included.     

Therefore, this audience is broader and richer than some of the old gamer stereotypes and  should be considered when advertisers are creating their brand messages and campaigns.    

What separates gaming from other media channels? 

Mediums  Gamers can now be reached through many different mediums: in-game, esports, streaming, console/platform, web and app, VR and so on. This presents a challenge – to choose the right  mix of available formats, planning must happen in an integrated way, connecting to the broader  business challenges that marketing in gaming seeks to address, rather than adding gaming as a  line on a media plan in individual channels.     

The device is key to determining the media strategy, as each type of engagement elicited from  any ad will depend on the end user’s behaviour around the platform. This is one of the reasons  why campaigns targeting gaming audiences should be approached in a unique manner  compared to other channels.     

Alongside devices, the genre of game is paramount when considering the demographic of  players and the type of engagement the advertiser is aiming to achieve, depending on the  campaign’s key performance indicators. For example, sports games have a different audience compared to fantasy titles, so the contextual relevance is important - but so is how the  advertiser can fit into the game.  

Mindset 

Another vital aspect to consider is the audience’s mindset towards marketing and advertising. While the ‘freemium’ model on mobile continues to dominate app stores, on paid-for games  across console and PC, the approach must be different. New console titles are often launched  at £50 RRP; thus, the audience is paying for a premium experience and it would be harmful to  the player experience to have any intrusion into the gameplay. Therefore, any marketing or  advertising messages must enrich the end user’s experience, rather than interrupt it. By enhancing the game through innovative, interesting, and entertaining content (that is, downloadable content that delivers customisation, skins, characters, sidequests etc), advertisers can talk to the gaming audience in a positive fashion.  

Creative freedom 

You can hardcode almost anything into a video game. We are only limited by our imaginations,  but listen to the game developer and include them in the creative process. They know their  audience better than anyone!   

Attention   

Gamers don’t consume, they participate and interact. There are less distractions when gaming,  and less second screening. Broadly though, there is a lot of mainstream attention on gaming,  and for all the right reasons - because of lockdown, gaming has provided a way for friends to  stay connected and socialise with their friends.  

Elusive audiences   

Gamers are twice as likely to have an ad blocker installed. They watch less linear TV, and prefer  platforms like Twitch, Reddit and Discord to traditional social media platforms. Brands,  therefore, may not be reaching parts of the gaming audience through their existing media mix at all.  

Media value 

A lot of the ad slots within gaming environments have extremely high viewability scores, and  they stay in view for a prolonged period. They are less prone to ad fraud. They are new to  market, and so are priced low, but we do not expect this to last. 

Measurement   

Gaming, in its various guises, can be compared to many established media channels - digital  out of home (in-game), social (streaming and influencers) and sports sponsorships (esports) - however there are some key differentiators which set them apart in terms of measurement.  Measurement of success will vary depending on the advertiser, their technology capability  stack, and their business goals, so each campaign will require a bespoke plan and  measurement framework.     

How do we make gaming a core part of the media mix? 

Currently, we are in an education phase. Marketers are slowly beginning to understand the  opportunities that gaming presents. The gaming world is starting to understand what  marketers care about: audience, measurement, creative. We need to be patient in educating  the advertising world, particularly around esports and streaming as this is alien to many. And  finally, deep partnerships must be developed for long-term growth.

Marketers must trust  gaming organisations – they know their audience and what will connect with them, so they  should be included in the creative process. With these things in place, gaming can become a  core part of the media mix in the next five years and beyond.   

This article is part of ?IAB UK’s Guide to Digital Innovation?. Drawing on contributions from IAB  members, the guide spans six chapters across a range of sectors to explore emerging trends  and areas of digital innovation. It is being released on a rolling weekly basis over the next 3 months - don't forget to check back regularly for more insights into the latest advertising  innovations.