In-Game Ads are Ramping Up
Gaming, as an advertising channel, has never been more primed for a brand’s success. Popular titles are easily accessible across consoles, PCs, and mobile devices, fueling gaming’s popularity for advertisers like never before. With over 3 billion people who game around the world, the global gaming audience is more diverse than ever—a far cry from the old stereotypes.
In this blog post, we will provide more insights on In-Game advertising, specifically how you can develop the right ad creative to boost performance for your gaming campaigns.
Why You Should Invest in In-Game Ads
With such a large global audience, in-game advertising should be every marketer’s best friend. It can serve as a targeted, standalone campaign for brands, but it can also ladder up to a cross channel campaign with ease. Here's why you should invest in-game ads:
Untapped Environment → Be a First Mover
Advertisers are spending the least amount of money in this channel, but data shows that users are spending more time playing mobile games than watching TV.
Preferred by Gaming Communities → Positive Brand Perception
Gaming communities have shared they prefer intrinsic in-game ads over other types of gaming ads since they don’t interrupt the game, resulting in double-digit lifts on brand awareness studies.
When people are playing games, the very last thing they expect to see is a set of interruptive ads that get in the way of their ability to see the full screen, or impact on their ability to play the game. Ads that appear natively in the environment; advertising content that belongs in the game itself, is a very different matter altogether!
Brand Safe Games → Protect Your Brand
All games within Frameplay’s network are hand selected by their team to ensure the highest quality and level of safety.
Read this for more insights on In-Game advertising.
Types of In-Game Ads
Today’s in-game advertising strategies typically fall into one of three approaches:
In-Game: The ad is placed in the gaming environment intrinsically, adjacently, interstitially, etc.
Around the Game: The ad is not in the gaming environment, but is still a part of the gaming ecosystem.
Away from the Game: The ad is placed at gaming industry events, eSports, or streamer ad buys.
Why Context is Crucial for Intrinsic in Game Ads
Intrinsic in-game advertising is a highly attentive version of contextual advertising for brands and consumers. Intrinsic in-game ads are ads inserted within gaming experiences natively. By natively, we mean that they might appear on in-game billboards - just like in real life. So, when you are running through a video game as a character and you run past a billboard - that ad is delivered within the experience.
In-Game is a cinematic environment that is inherently contextually relevant (e.g., an ad for an auto brand on the race track or an ad for sports equipment on the football pitch). In order to capture the attention of gaming communities immersed within virtual environments, it is crucial to present them with in-game ads that are contextually targeted. This is not just great for the players' gaming experience - brands now are leveling up with their intrinsic in game ads campaigns.
Creative Considerations for In-Game Ads
Despite these exciting advancements in gaming communities’ attitudes toward in-game ads and technological advancements in gaming as an ad channel, in-game ads are not web ads. Advertisers shouldn’t take assets from another channel, place them into an in-game environment and expect them to perform as well as they do in other mediums.
When actively playing a game, players can’t click to opt into something, or visit another web page—and if there is the option, it’s not a desirable experience for this lean-in activity. The in-game ad and its message should stand on its own, and stand out enough to be memorable. A savvy marketer will know that in-game advertising has creative standards unique to the channel and the success of their campaign depends on making contextually relevant creative.
Here are some key considerations for your next in-game advertising campaign:
Gaming has some similarities to other advertising channels, but it’s not a 1:1 comparison to other digital ad channels. People who play games are actively immersed and are participating in gaming as an activity—they’re not scrolling on their phone or involved in something else like they could be while watching TV or listening to a podcast. Consider that experience when making the creative: how can your in-game ads be memorable to the player in a non-disruptive way that improves their gaming experience?
In some ways, in-game advertising is a virtual out-of-home (VOOH) ad unit. But, unlike digital out-of-home (DOOH), you don’t have to be concerned about someone driving or walking past your ad and missing it. When done right, an in-game ad unit can enhance the player’s experience by respecting and meshing into a virtual world. Done well, your campaign can surprise and delight gaming communities, making a memorable brand moment.
Genre ties closely with a game’s environment, because the game genre can heavily influence what kind of environment players are in. Perhaps the most obvious example is sports games: the stadiums, arenas, courts and fields pros play in have real world ad counterparts with stadium billboards and branding. The creative should feel like it could live in a real world stadium. Similarly, a racing game could have players rushing through in-game environments as they attempt to get in first place. A billboard with bold logo treatments or recognizable brand iconography will help the game come to life.
Also, some genres or games don’t make a ton of sense for a particular brand or ads at all. Imagine being hours deep in a medieval fantasy world and suddenly seeing an ad for toothpaste (or any ad at all for that matter). This could easily disrupt the player’s experience, and ultimately create a bad connotation for your brand. Ensuring your brand’s ads are only placed in gaming environments that are safe and suitable for advertising, will avoid negative brand associations that can happen in the example listed above.
The Gaming Experience
People game for many different reasons, but when polled by the Entertainment Software Association, their top reasons were to have fun, to unwind and to escape. If you really want your in-game advertisements to resonate positively with gaming communities, you need to analyze your creative in that mindset. Could this ad stop the fun, disrupt them or take them out of the experience? You can set your campaign up for in-game success by putting less focus on aggressively drawing attention to your creative and instead focusing on how your creative can compliment this advertising channel.
These considerations are vital for a campaign’s success, but what about the actual ad units? It might seem daunting to find the sweet spot for in-game ads, between enticing and non-disruptive, but it’s more approachable than you think. In-game creative succeeds by utilizing the simplicity of DOOH and the thoughtfulness of contextual advertising.
Consider the following best practices when creating your next in-game advertisement:
Highlight Your Logo.
Playful uses of brand logos or icons to fit the gaming environment is an easy way to catch attention and reinventing or modifying them to fit a game’s environment can make it feel unique and appreciated by gaming communities.
Think back to our sports stadium example: you don’t see long-winded prose in those ad spaces, so why would it fly in the virtual equivalent? Short, catchy copy lines are essential. Distill your campaign’s key messaging for maximum impact. If it’s applicable, try altering your brand’s tagline to fit in that game’s context for bonus points.
Use Distinctive Imagery.
What makes your brand, product, or campaign unique? Using a simple composition, highlight the visual elements that will be the most memorable to the view. Avoid busy designs with multiple images, shapes or color elements, as they may become disruptive or distracting.
Adjust for the Gaming Audience.
Don’t forget—people who play games are fun! They’re playing a game when they’re seeing your ad. Tailor your creative to this context to make the in game ad experience a memorable one.
If you want to succeed in the in-game advertising industry, creative standards are key to enhancing the gaming experience for players. Every game is unique, but with these standards we can ensure ads mesh with the gaming environment, can be seen by gaming communities, don’t interfere with the developer’s version and that they represent the brand’s vision and campaign properly. Creative standards and in-game ad formats like intrinsic–that resonate with gaming communities–tell people who play games that we respect their hobby or passion. When advertisers adopt these creative standards which respect the gaming experience, we’ll have truly impactful ad experiences in this massive advertising channel that will be memorable for brands, advertisers, developers and (most importantly) people who play games.