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In New Media Environment, Everybody’s Got Game

Gaming isn’t just for geeks anymore. According to SuperData, there’s now a bigger audience for gaming video than the combined audiences of HBO, Netflix, ESPN and Hulu. Universities are offering scholarships to video gamers who want to get into design, as well as to esports experts able to compete on varsity teams. Fortnite player extraordinaire Tyler “Ninja” Blevins appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show, played a record-breaking Fortnite streak with rapper Drake and is the first esports figure on the cover of ESPN magazine. Clearly gaming has emerged from the dungeon (and dragons) and into the mainstream. Here are a few reasons advertisers should be eyeing the market with interest and intent.

A Growing Audience that’s More Diverse than You Think
While gaming has experienced double-digit growth in recent years, advertising spend, at about $2 million this year, represents only a fraction of the $34 billion U.S. market. And the main reason for that is most marketers still perceive the gaming audience as mostly 13-year-old boys who don’t get out of their basements much, when in reality it is much more diverse and representative of the general population. For example, nearly half of the gaming audience is female and professional with high average incomes ($58,000 to $78,000). In addition, much of this tech-savvy segment of the population are those who are leading the cord-cutting charge and trading in prime-time viewing for video game playing. SuperData calls gaming “the most important, massive, new media platform since social media,” and one that AdWeek says deserves much more attention from marketers.

High Engagement Requires Highly Tailored Content
It’s not just audience size and make-up that should be drawing advertisers in. By virtue of what they’re doing, gamers tend to be far more engaged than those passively viewing content. And while this offers advertisers an opportunity to forge strong relationships with players and build brand loyalty, that only happens when the ads are tailored to the gaming medium or offer rewards for watching or participating. In other words, creativity and out-of-the-box approaches are de rigueur for really reaching gamers. As such, virtual reality approaches like the 2016 Pokemon Go campaign, or advergames like Chipotle’s Scarecrow, KFC’s Crazy Taxi or Chex cereal’s Chex Quest—which increased Chex sales by 200%–have proved highly effective. In-game advertising, which can be native or programmatic, also offers a range of opportunities, the best of which are rewards-based, or ads that offer an incentive for game players to watch such as tools to make them more competitive while gaming. These, however, must be done well as some controversy has erupted over gamers “buying” their way to new levels or to victory.

Mobile is Huge and It’s Brand Safe
According to Digiday when marketers are advertising on gaming apps—particularly mobile which represents 50% of the worldwide gaming market, it’s often due to concerns about brand-safety on other platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. By way of example, the article cited an executive at a large CPG company, who last year cut YouTube spending by about 25% amid beliefs that the platform wasn’t policing its content well enough. Looking for an alternative to reach mobile users, the company landed on gaming apps. “We’re eager to start advertising in mobile games. It’s a safe, scalable place to start applying ourselves,” said the executive, who added that the company is looking into video ads and reward ads within apps like Words with Friends, Jeopardy! and Candy Crush Saga.

With advertising investments approaching $2.5 billion by 2020, and as advances in technology create even more immersive gaming environments, savvy marketers will be able to reap strong returns on gaming investments. But only if they develop tailored creative approaches along with focused e-commerce strategies.