As modern attention fragments across various screens and formats, advertisers are evolving their tactics and diversifying their methods of messaging. One of these fast-growing channels is mobile in-game advertising, which is the ability to serve relevant, programmatic ads within mobile gaming applications.
eMarketer estimated that in 2019, in-game advertising revenue on all devices would exceed $3 billion (final numbers still forthcoming), and a survey conducted by Deloitte revealed that 47 percent of respondents played digital games on their smartphones or tablets, more than any other devices.
Beyond the skyrocketing global use of smartphones, another driving force in the rise of mobile in-game advertising popularity is the advantage it presents for all sides of the experience. Consumers can download games free of charge because game developers have an additional revenue stream. On the flip side, advertisers can tap into a more targeted form of advertising with better access to measurement capabilities.
Yet certain concerns associated with the format may be discouraging some advertisers from getting in the game (literally) and diversifying their programmatic portfolios. Here, we address four myths associated with mobile in-game advertising and debunk them with data, proving that it is a medium worth exploring.
Contrary to most advertising, mobile in-game users are very receptive to digital media as part of their playing experiences. This is from an awareness of the value exchange: the presence of mobile gaming advertising affords users free play or other in-game rewards. In fact, 72 percent of those surveyed in a report done by Tapjoy said they understand the role advertising plays in mobile games and even actively engage with ads.
But game-builders and advertisers should still be mindful of creating minimally disruptive ad experiences and strive to maintain a “player first” philosophy. This means thinking creatively about how to incorporate branding within a game. For example, Coca-Cola has opted for product placement–type advertising in games like Nordcurrent.
Another example of innovative mobile in-game advertising was when Starbucks partnered with Pokémon Go to host PokeStops at 7,800 of their stores.
In any programmatic environment, advertisers are more cautious about their brands appearing next to risky content. Over the years, video games have acquired a somewhat unsavory reputation—mostly due to violent games garnering media attention. Because of this portrayal, there’s some level of (misguided) thinking that says in-game advertising could be unsafe.
But as it relates to mobile in-game advertising, and especially free-to-play apps, the industry has found the medium to be relatively brand safe. This is because the games and the content are much lighter and rarely user-generated, unlike more complex games that allow server-building and other configurable components.
As with any content channel they plan to invest in, advertisers need to gain an understanding of all the different options (in this case, games) and determine how suitable they are for their specific audiences and overall brands.
The misconception that gaming audiences are only young males is perhaps one of the most persistent on our list. In fact, it could be said that this false assumption is the reason why the mobile in-game advertising market is one of the most untapped in the programmatic industry.
Statistics show that gamers—especially those playing on mobile—are increasingly female. Certain types of mobile games, such as puzzles, draw even more women players than men. And they’re not necessarily young gamers either. Jun Group research found that 56 percent of mobile gamers are age 35 and over.
The truth about mobile gaming audiences is that they are extremely diverse depending on what type of game is being played, so it behooves advertisers to research the market and select the games they feel will best reach their ideal customers.
This is another case where reality is the very opposite of the myth. Mobile in-game advertising is quite measurable and is a highlight of the medium’s appeal. Many game publishers allow advertisers to integrate their 3rd party measurement tools, whether individual 3rd party software development kits (SDKs), or IAB’s Open Measurement SDK, which can send data to many of the major measurement and analytics companies.
Implementing solid measurement capabilities for in-game advertising is important not only for advertisers to measure success but also because in-app mobile has become a highly incentivized form of traffic for fraud. Monitoring invalid traffic will protect advertisers from losing precious ad spend to real-life cheaters.
Since it’s estimated that close to 1.5 billion people will play mobile games globally this year, putting media dollars into the in-game advertising market is a solid tactic to test for 2020. With a diverse and engaged audience that is receptive to ads—as well as continually advancing technology to monitor investments—advertisers have very little to lose in working mobile gaming into their strategies.
As Wayne and Garth so famously stated, “Game on!”