Game Changers 2021 has just ended. The virtual event was an ultimate guide to marketing in the gaming arena, covering the path to gaining influence, driving monetisation and measuring success.
Throughout the programme, Campaign Asia-Pacific's editors posted highlights and takeaways here in liveblog style (newest posts will appear at the top).
How the metaverse will play out for brands and gaming companies
Posted at 1:10 pm
Rudy Lee, chief strategy officer of Zepeto:
There are a lot of interesting partnerships in the metaverse currently. You need to figure out what you're prioritising—sales or less immediately tangible exposure. That will have a say on how innovative your activation will be.
Stanley Kim, CEO and Founder of Vive Studios:
For virtual headset immersions, there may be some limitations given the size of the device and, with users blind, the place of use has to be safe. Next year, Apple will launch AR/VR glasses, and that is going to be make this entire industry [much more] popular.
Leslie Shanon, head of ecosystem and trend scouting for Nokia:
If we are going to have a head-mounted device like regular eyeglasses, you need to take processing off of the device... [The speed of] 5G allows you to move this processing power from the hardware to the network and a stack of servers. 5G and processing in networks are the things that make this magic happen.
Learnings for esports from traditional sports
Posted at 1.20pm
Bruce Kaider, founder of One Sports and Entertainment, Stephanie Rice, CEO at Rice Enterprises, and Sean Zhang, CEO at Talon Esports discussed learnings from physical sports marketing that can be carried over to gaming and esports.
Kaider spoke about the nature of esports fans vs fans of physical sports:
There’s a cult-like nature to esports fans and the way they support their teams. The difference is that with esports, fans are loyal to game titles within their market whereas with mainstream sport, there's also loyalty to an iconic athlete or performer. And I think that transition is going to be really interesting as we try to bridge the gap and bring mainstream fans to esports and we’re able to create brand identities and celebrities of our athletes.
Rice spoke about the new challenges of managing esports athletes:
The new thing we're having to learn when it comes to esports athletes is that all of a sudden, are a celebrity and a publicly recognised figure. You now have to deal as a brand and as a representative in the media. And I think that's something that we are really trying to educate some of our big leadership players on. [It’s about] managing that other side so that we can have more sustainability in the sport and have those athletes playing for longer, because it is quite a high-turnover sport.
Zhang talked about why livestreaming is a major edge for esports compared to traditional sports:
Many of our professional players stream between 10-40 hours a week. And that is a constant conversation that professional players are having with fans on a daily basis. For example, that would be the equivalent of LeBron wearing a GoPro and having someone asking questions while he was training at the Lakers facility every single day. I’m not saying that [LeBron] can't do that. But in esports, that exists a lot.
How Mastercard is using its loyalty and experience chops to be more useful to older gamers
Posted at 12.35 pm
When we looked at the gamer community it was very clear that it would be a delightful thing for them. When we talk about enablement, that is what we wanted to enable, this seamless redemption of unspent loyalty points into gaming currency.
Khullar also emphasised the data-driven nature of the initiative:
Being extremely clear about the segment within this very large cohort that any brand wants to focus on is a very important thing to consider. Lean into data and really understand what it is you’d like to do and where it is that you will have the most impact.
We looked at data to be clearer about what we wanted to focus on. This was an older audience, the 35- to 44-year-old cohort which is really at the intersection of gaming and playing. They’re mass-affluent, they’re spending money in-game and they would actually love to have the variety we want to offer.
The evolving advertising model for the metaverse and the play economy
Posted at 12.20 pm
Tom Simpson, SVP, APAC for AdColony, spoke about the evolving advertising model in the metaverse.
The fundamental reason why advertising changes in the play economy is that web 2 was driven by advertising. The big web 2 businesses—Facebook and Google—are advertsing businesses. Even those that didn’t start with advertising—Google, for example—trended towards it. Those outside, like Walmart, trended towards advertising too. The core to advertising is aggregating eyeballs and monetising them via ads.
Web 3 is different. It is decentralised tech and monetisation, not advertising, so it will have less importance. The advertising that is left will be more respectful, since consumers have more choices to spend time. Rewarded advertising like value exchange—paying for more lives when you run out of them in a game or watching an ad to gain one—will become more important. Second, targeting.
One thing the metaverse isn’t is a set of VR googles. People don’t want to wander around with VR googles strapped to their faces. [Instead, the metaverse] will be a range of different screens—a phygital interface. A lot of the metaverse is location-specific, and the augmented-reality layer is going to be important. Older techniques such as vouchering at restaurants will become a lot more targeted and a lot more precise. Third, interactivity is key. Your ad is not on a screen on the other side of the room anymore. Your ad is literally in consumers' hands. We touch, type swipe and we engage with them in whatever way possible. ... The baseline expecation from consumers is you are interactive and experiential.
Taking a gaming sponsorship to the next level
Posted at 11:50 am
Penelope Siraj, principal consultant at R3, shared and analysed two classic examples of gaming sponsorship. One is Sentosa Crossing for Nintendo'a Switch game, Animal Crossing. The other is KFC China esports marketing. She also brought some tips for setting KPIs that make an impact and allow you to measure success.
The first case is Sentosa crossing, an additional replica of Singapore's recreational Island destination Sentosa, which was created in Animal Crossing. Sentosa Development Cooperation worked with creative agency BBH Singapore to put together the virtual island. With more than 15,000 minutes of virtual dwell time, Sentosa Crossing is a case study of how tourism marketing can innovate and connect with future travellers, even as travel was closed on a global scale.
KFC delivered the information that people found valuable, predicting match outcomes which could result in a long-term increase in unaided awareness. We see how key insights drag you to one-button ordering and a coupon to use on a meal delivered to your computer side, that you can eat with one hand and not take your hands off the keyboard. You're reminded that you need to make meal plans, and one out of four gamers did just that. Short-term sales goals were able to be tracked.
Measure and report your success loudly and frequently. How much reach is enough reach? Do you have a specific audience for your brand? What is your measurement approach? Identify ahead of time the long- and short-term targets in which you will prioritize if you need to. Have you set clear internal targets and intermediate goals? Create that internal excitement and pride among your colleagues in management.
Linking ROI to sponsorship is not easy, but there are two potential approaches. First, link sponsorship spending to key qualitative measures like unaided awareness, interest to consider, and potential to purchase, and track impact of each to short- and long-term sales. The second is economic track modelling of spending reach over time, resulting in sales after isolating the impact from any other marketing activities. How will you track progress? Track across multiple screens and address sentiment changes quickly. And report regularly to ensure continued management support.
How BMW gave esports teams freedom with communications
Posted at 11:32 am
Pia Schörner, head of gaming and sponsoring with BMW Group, spoke about how the brand has stepped into esports over the last couple of years. The carmaker initially decided to work with esports teams, and a key factor in that decision was the realisation that the teams could provide a bridge for the brand to speak to the esports community—rather than BMW attempting to speak directly to gaming fans when it didn’t have the credibility or an appropriate tone of voice to do so. This meant giving the teams leeway to deliver the brand's messages in their own ways.
We decided to deliver a schedule of what should be communicated at what time, in which context. But we left it to the teams to decide how, because what is important is to really be a bit risky. They know how to communicate. It isn’t the way BMW would communicate, because it's really special how you should talk to the community. You have to be with them on eye level. You really have to embrace the scene and know how it works.
So that's why we decided to give some hints to the teams, but they can work on their own. And they did, and that worked. So we did a lot of communication which is not usual for us as BMW, but it really worked well in the community. And for us it's like the perfect idea to really interact with them, because it's credible.
Three gaming trends marketers and publishers should take note of
Posted at 11.20 am
Kunal Soni, director, Google Play, Southeast Asia and Australia, identified three key gaming trends in the region:
Gaming tech will promote social engagement
Social multiplayer games have always been at the forefront of the gaming ecosystem. In our survey, what we found was that 27% of all gamers in APAC used games as social platforms, next only to social media. That's phenomenal. So clearly, they're using games to connect and to build communities. What's even more interesting is that over 90% expect to increase social activity within their games in the next one year.
Console gaming finally lands in South Korea and China
Console gaming has been a key part of the ecosystem in markets like Japan, but not so much in other parts of APAC. But the last year has changed a lot of things. There’s been a lot of innovation on hardware, whether it's Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, etc. Everyone has done a fantastic job in delivering the most immersive, high-quality experiences on consoles. And couple that with the fact that there have been large-scale closures of gaming cafes across the region.
Mobile is open to strong monetisation opportunities
Mobile gaming is not new to APAC. And what that's very inspiring to see that despite the amazing growth in the last few years and mobile gaming, that demand for gaming continues to rise and scale new heights. And that is going to unlock a lot of opportunities for developer businesses across the ecosystem to monetise. The challenge has been to close the monetisation gap. There are lots of users who are clearly engaging with the content, but it’s not necessarily resulting in revenue for the ecosystem players. And that's the central challenge of monetisation, and it needs to be solved.
How Toyota used virtual drives to drive brand metrics
Posted at 10:40 am
David Nordstrom, VP of the Toyota marketing and planning division at Toyota Motors Asia Pacific, spoke with Phil Adrien of Dentsu International about the virtual driving experience they created, tied to Toyota's Gazoo Racing line. Nordstrom talked about how the brand measured the effectiveness o this investment, and admitted the activity "blew away" his initial expectations.
The metric was not how many cars we sell off this activity. It is purely a brand activity. So all of our KPIs were based on how many people were aware of what we were doing, how many people engaged with what we were doing. And then longer-term, we were trying to measure the shift in the brand. ... And all of our KPIs, we blew away.
So my first reaction is, we had our expectations too low. Because on the awareness, the engagement, the viewership, but also the perception of the brand—the metrics that we were measuring like, do they feel like we're sporty and we're youthful and things like that—all were very positive and beyond our expectations.
So then, in the second year, we had to set the metrics even higher, higher than what we achieved. And we blew them away again. So next year they’ve got to go even higher.
How McDonald's championed chicken with esports fans in China
Posted at 9:55 am
Joanne Xie, head of brand marketing, chicken burgers and chicken snacks, McDonald's China:
First of all, esports is a booming industry in China. In 2020, China's esports fans have exceeded 480 million, in which college students account for 55%. It makes esports highly concentrated of young people, and makes universities the major playground. So it is a platform with a young target that we want to focus on.
Second point, by partnering with esports, we have the opportunity to penetrate deeply into the entire consumer journey, and softly introduce our products. Because it is a long-term platform lasting around half a year...we have opportunity to generate lots of topics and discussions, having in-depth interaction and engagement with younger consumers, so as to create a positive effect that simple mass media or sponsorship cannot achieve.
Xie also spoke about how the campaign posited the product as a lucky snack to have before playing, an idea that spread even beyond the esports context:
As the spontaneous spread further expands, our product is not only a lucky thing for esports but also a lucky symbol in many life scenes. For example, some students will eat a piece of McCrispy Chicken before their exam, hoping they can get good grades. So it breaks out of the circle from esports to many others.
Posted at 9:15 am
Carlos Alimurung, CEO, ONE Esports:
You can't drive to transactions until you've established your credibility in the space. The biggest mistake that brands make in the space is to rush toward transactions. You need to build your credibilty and show your commitment.
Melody Li, senior director, sales and marketing, Sportfive:
For [our client] TCL, our team here in Shanghai is supporting TCL’s activation around LPL [League of Legends Pro League] through the entire season on a daily basis. We support TCL with a team of professional colleagues who are passionate about esports and gaming, and we're supporting TCL with pushing and launching content that is esports- and gaming-relevant. We really leverage on the meme culture in China, and for every TCL- and LPL-related content posted on TCL’s social media, we make sure that it's relevant, that it’s authentic, and that it’s coming from a real heart, from an esports fan, an LPL fan. And we will also encourage the other colleagues from the team to really reply to the comments from the fans who are actually engaging with the TCL posts, to try to make it as authentic and as real as possible.
Anuj Dahiya, global digital head, Mondelēz International:
We consciously stayed away from gaming in the last couple of years, and that was mainly because of issues around brand safety and issues around brand relevancy, which is a fundamental principle across all the media investments that we do. However, in the post-Covid era we are seeing significant shifts happening in consumer trends, and in esports and gaming the central theme shifts, with more engagement, more authenticity, more mature players and more investors coming to the space. So going forward, as VR or AR or even the futuristic metaverse erases those boundaries between the digital and the physical realms, I look forward to esports providing a great potential for limitless engagement.
We looked at data to be clear about what we wanted to focus on. This was an older audience, because the 35 to 44-year-old cohort is really at the intersection of the gaming and playing audience. They’re mass-affluent, they’re spending money in-game and they would actually love to have the variety we want to offer because