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In-game advertising: They’re ads, Jim, but not as we know them


Victoria Usher

Published On:

December 17, 2019

Published In:

Advertising & Marketing | Business | Technology Insights

In-game advertising: They’re ads, Jim, but not as we know them

The global in-game advertising market is growing steadily by more than 10% each year, and the attraction of the channel for advertisers is clear. With mass audiences that cut across demographic groups and are actively engaged in play, in-game advertising is an effective way of getting brand messages heard.

But the idea of in-game advertising isn’t always so appealing to game developers, despite the incentive of an additional revenue stream. Games are designed to be immersive experiences and anything that disrupts or distracts from play is treated with extreme caution. The mere mention of advertising can be off putting for gamers.

To address this concern, in-game advertising specialists and game developers are working together to come up with new and innovative ways to make ads sit organically within games so they become an integral part of the experience.

Mimicking the real world

One solution is to place in-game ads where users would naturally expect to see them in the real world, making gaming environments more realistic. Ads can be displayed on billboards along roadsides, on hoardings at sports stadiums or on flags at racetracks, resulting in a type of virtual out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Except in-game advertising is more agile and efficient than OOH as it can be targeted and personalised to individuals that play the game.

Last year, for example, the NHS ran a mental health and wellbeing campaign promoting MindMate, a service that helps young people in the Leeds area. It chose to run in-game ads in Football Manager, allowing it to access a hard to reach young male audience. Ad creatives appeared on the boards around the football pitch, where players would see promotions in a real-world football stadium, but due to geotargeting these ads were only shown to players located in and around Leeds. Players in other areas would see different messaging more relevant to their location.

Staying in character to play the game

Another in-game advertising tactic is to use the game’s characters to promote certain brand messages or products. Epic Games frequently take this approach in Fortnite, arranging crossover events with branded skins and game modes that add new elements to the game rather than detracting from it. A recent crossover event between Fortnite and Nike’s Jordan brand enabled players to unlock two Jumpman-inspired character skins, Grind and Clutch, who both wore customisable Jordan sneakers.

Rewarding in-app ads for mobile games

The mobile gaming audience for mobile games is immense with 2.4 billion people around the world playing mobile games this year. In-app ads on mobile games come in many formats, and some are more intrusive than others. A recent study reveals 72% of mobile game players actually enjoy interacting with in-app ads in exchange for game currency or premium content, while 76% prefer opt-in rewarded ads over interstitials. These figures indicate mobile gamers are receptive to ads as long as they add something to the game, rather than interrupting it.

In-game advertising is a unique opportunity for brand messages to reach diverse and engaged audiences in a premium and, so far, relatively uncluttered space. But they need to work with game developers and in-game advertising specialists to ensure ads respect their environment and bring value to the gaming experience if they want to maximise this opportunity.

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