Benjamin Lanfry
Apr 30, 2024

Gamers are not who brands think they are

From geeks to grandmas, the traditional gamer persona no longer holds true. So what does it mean for brands?

Gamers are not who brands think they are

Interest in gaming as an advertising channel has been stunted for decades. A major stumbling block for brand investment has been rooted in the view that the gamer persona doesn’t scale. In actuality, advertisers might be surprised to discover the gamer persona doesn’t exist in 2024, at least not in the way they imagined.

Gamers are us

The primary misconception is that gamers all belong to a narrow cohort of 'geeks' who are 15-20 years old, predominantly male, and playing in their rooms. Gamers map more comprehensively with advertisers’ target audiences than imagined, spanning the broadest demographic spectrum, from seven to 77 years old. Advertisers’ notion of 'the gamer' no longer holds up to scrutiny. With the explosion of mobile gaming apps, everyone is now a gamer. From gym-goers who play Candy Crush to grandmothers whose eyes are locked on the Sudoku on their phones, the opportunity to reach consumers via this highly engaging channel is continuously expanding.

Unlike more traditional media channels like TV or cinema, mobile gamers are used to ads and advertisers providing game boosts. Since people engage with games mostly during leisure time, they tend to be more receptive to brands.

With gamers not restricted to a particular demographic, this also makes for an extremely scalable opportunity. Essentially, anyone with a smartphone has a game console: around half the world’s population—3.4 billion people—play games. APAC in particular has taken to mobile gaming—64% of mobile gaming revenue in 2023 was attributed to the region.

Considering gaming’s broader audience, there is great potential for brand engagement with casual games like Solitaire. Yet, many CMOs are not up to speed. It’s not just about action games or FIFA. Some companies now qualify the suitability of games in relation to core brand values, with quality becoming paramount for advertisers as the number of gaming titles proliferates. Historically, this has been more difficult to do compared to more traditionally accepted media channels.

Game over, a history

In the past, advertisers have cited different reasons for not including games in their media mix. While most gaming companies are global, ad markets are local, meaning these players don’t often have local sellers in the field to create awareness and credibility. Tech has also been an obstacle, as traditional DSPs don’t always have the proper connections with in-app mediation companies.

Additionally, advertisers must fully appreciate that opt-in rewarded videos in gaming overperform compared to traditional websites and in-app content. Engagement with them is robust and users don’t look at rewarded placements as intrusive. Advertisers should consider these gaming ad formats like football terrain banners (static banners on an app page) or TV show commercials (in the shape of a full-screen interstitial at the end of a game level). Users engage purposefully with the ads because their presence is organic within the gameplay, and advertisers can even set up campaigns as they do for TV, with primetime in gaming running from 6-10 PM. In fact, advertisers have a similar opportunity as they do with mobile advertising to leverage gaming as a second screen with the TV on at the same time.

The gaming channel also offers robust audience engagement assessment, with time spent being a critical metric. Indeed, gaming is the #1 channel for this particular metric, more so than TV. Attention, which is increasingly becoming a central metric, exceeds benchmarks within those gaming environments and can also be measured by getting into SDKs and detecting eye movement aligned against ads.

What’s next in gaming?

In this exciting new era of frothy AI investment and tooling, you should look for a push in automation to help accelerate the frequency of new creative to keep messaging and engagement fresh. Also, look for audio ads in gaming to bring in new advertisers. At some point, e-commerce within mobile games, if done properly, will be huge - with every player just needing to push a button to buy a pair of jeans or get a discount code to order a pizza. And while the open web will have to contend with generative AI and a growing number of platforms that are made for advertising, gaming publishers will remain unaffected.

These green shoots of opportunity come at a time when the mobile in-app sector struggles to maintain high revenue from its assets in an increasingly ID-less world. When Apple implemented its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) protocol, all iOS apps were required to ask users for permission to share their personal data, which has led to a significant drop in the opt-in rate. And as Google has finally started deprecating third-party cookies on Chrome, we’re all seeing the impact this already has on signal loss in web environments. In the coming years, the Internet giant might similarly phase out its Android ad IDs.

2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in our industry. Yes, advertisers are faced with the daunting challenge of how to make up for signal loss and figure out new models and channels that will deliver the scale and targeting accuracy they demand while doing it in a way that is privacy-first. And gaming increasingly grabs audiences’ attention and will play a growing role in supporting both brands’ and publishers’ move towards this privacy-first, ID-less world.

Benjamin Lanfry is the chief supply officer at Ogury. 

Campaign Asia

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