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    Where are smart marketers spending money in gaming?

    At The Drum’s Media Summit, a panel of experts discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of gaming marketing.

    Brands are no strangers to gaming. From the beginning of the medium, brands have sponsored or even created games as marketing tools. But as the marketing industry turned to programmatic and digital video advertising, the gaming industry lagged behind. 

    That was partly to do with a reticence to engage with a demographic that appeared to resent advertising intrusions, and partly because gaming advertising lacked many of the tools and options offered by other digital media.

    Mark Slade, managing director at Digital Turbine, argues that the marketing industry has woken up to the idea that gaming, like any other marketing medium, is about attention. To that end, there has been significant investment over the past few years in mobile video within gaming apps, where the lean-in nature of gaming has a halo effect on adjacent marketing mediums.

    Now, however, with the recognition that gaming demographics are far broader than the stereotype, and with mobile and triple-A gaming creating new opportunities for marketers to reach that audience, things are changing. The floodgates are opening for brands and advertisers to enter the world’s most lucrative entertainment medium in a manner that adds value to players as well as brands. 

    Sarah Leccacorvi, head of content and creative at Havas Entertainment, believes that the gaming medium provides a “broadcast with benefits” model for marketers – which takes the passive viewing experience to the next level. Gaming is, by its nature, a primary activity, and any brand extension into gaming spaces is more immersive and impactful as a result.

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    For the players

    Meanwhile, Natalie Cooke, group managing director at M&C Saatchi, believes that brands can engage gaming audiences – particularly when it’s done right. She noted that Burger King successfully engaged with Elden Ring players on their own terms by encouraging streamers to only use fire- and flame-based weapons and spells within the game world. Since it was a challenge of the sort that many streamers like to impose upon themselves, it felt authentic and true to how gamers like to create content.

    Beyond the games themselves, gaming-adjacent activities are also creating new opportunities for marketers to reach audiences. Amazon’s purchase of Twitch, for instance, was predicated on the knowledge that advertisers wanted the ability to appear alongside gaming content in a live capacity. Digital video, too, is empowering advertisers to appear next to gaming content, particularly on mobile.

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    The panel also noted that, while ‘the metaverse’ is currently used primarily as a synonym for gaming, it has also allowed brands to experiment with the medium. Brands that once would not have countenanced brand extensions into gaming are creating mini-metaverses, and the recent inclusion of Ralph Lauren skins in battle royale game Fortnite arguably would not have occurred without that experimentation.

    So while gaming took a while to catch up with the pack, it is now one of the best and brightest opportunities for marketers. Players are increasingly diverse, and their interests extend far beyond just gaming. But when it comes to attention and engaged audiences, as a marketing medium it is hard to beat.

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