Alberico de Nardis
Oct 4, 2023

From second screeners to free timers: How to engage APAC's mobile gamers

As the demise of third-party cookies shrinks addressable audiences, APAC’s advertisers should set their sights on mobile gaming, opines LoopMe's Alberico de Nardis.

Photo: Unsplash.
Photo: Unsplash.

Are you on the hunt for fresh reach?

As the demise of third-party cookies shrinks addressable audiences, APAC’s advertisers should set their sights on mobile gaming, a well-stocked watering hole of accessible consumers.

The $92.2 billion global mobile gaming app market attracts advertisers for many reasons. These include engagement-boosting formats such as rewarded video ads, brand safety, and the guaranteed viewability of unskippable ads. That's not to mention the stronger performance results we consistently see when gaming inventory is included in campaigns—both in terms of media metrics such as clicks and views, but importantly also in real-world metrics like user attention and increased brand uplift.

However, mobile gamers are not a sitting target. In fact, they are quite the opposite. Gamers are leant- in rather than laid-back, choosing to engage and interact with the medium instead of doom-scrolling through a myriad of content. Mobile gamers need to be served timely, unobtrusive, and relevant content, otherwise it risks having the opposite effect to the experience they crave.

The biggest in-game advertising mistake

China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore lead the world in time spent chasing a high score. Chinese players alone clock up to 11.3 hours per week compared to a global average of around nine hours.

However, it is a big mistake to equate high consumption with solid engagement. As with any audience, advertisers must align their messaging with gamers' unique interests, preferences, and habits within their campaign execution.

No consumer will warm to a brand that frequently interrupts their game with irrelevant messaging. To avoid this, it is necessary to understand how mobile gaming habits have evolved since the global pandemic.

From time filler to free time activity

Though lockdowns and social distancing led to a surge in mobile gaming as a boredom-beating tool, it fulfils a very different role in a post-pandemic world.

In Singapore, you are increasingly likely to chance upon people tapping away at Coin Master and Monopoly Go! as they wait for the MRT or have a coffee.

Our research into the Singapore market shows that mobile gaming has transformed from a time filler to a free time activity—50% of the country's gamers play when they have spare time during the day, 15% on their commute, and 15% on weekends.

In terms of frequency, over a quarter play more than five times a day, 29% play games between two to four times a day, and only 10% play less than once a day.

Though people in Singapore typically game several times a day, they only play for a short time, with almost a third playing for less than an hour each day, and 37% playing between one and two hours a day.

This identifies an opportunity for brands to regularly connect with passionate users. But ads will only hit the mark with a reliable and up-to-date view of each player's preferences. What type of content will make them act? At what time of day are they most likely to engage?

Captive audience or second screeners?

Not only are players changing when they play, but also how. A quarter (23%) of gamers in the Singapore study do nothing else while mobile gaming—a dream captive audience.

Others are trickier, splitting attention between gaming and additional activities. While gaming, they are also watching TV (28%), listening to music (23%), or checking social media (20%).

Brands can harness this divided attention by delivering complementary ads across channels and ensuring each message adds up to a seamless experience. This reinforces brand connection and increases the likelihood of active response.

To do this, advertisers need an in-depth and real-time picture of cross-media performance to efficiently synchronise messaging across mobile gaming apps, TV, and social media platforms. For example, CTV ads could feature a code for redeemable in-game points.

Evaluating mobile gaming campaigns

Brands should question whether campaign tactics that worked during the pandemic are still relevant now that gaming habits have changed.

As always, proxies do not tell the whole story: How valuable is measuring impressions alone when a typical mobile gamer has one eye on PUBG Mobile and the other on the television? Instead, marketers should optimise mobile gaming campaigns based on tangible performance measurements like purchase intent or brand lift.

Goal-oriented—or outcomes-based—metrics enable marketers to determine which formats, tactics and offers prompt their key audiences to act.

AI-assisted tools that blend real-time and historical data can instantly assess how different variables impact a user completing a task. This empowers marketers to allocate spend to ads that are most likely to produce a desired outcome.

Machine learning combined with outcome-led measurement can also pave the way for incremental gains—the more data AI engines gather on past successes and misses, the better they are at predicting future performance.

This increasingly detailed insight enables marketers to make informed creative and delivery decisions to serve messages that resonate with time-pressed users.

It’s time to zoom in on players

While there’s been lots of industry debate about growth in the mobile gaming industry (some sources cite a slowdown, others predict unbroken growth), for once, the smaller picture tells a bigger story. Brands that look beyond the noise of macro forecasts and act on real player insights will secure the fastest and most effective mobile ad wins—outpacing the competition in this highly lucrative sector.

Alberico de Nardis is head of Southeast Asia and ANZ at LoopMe.

Campaign Asia

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