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News Analysis 3 Jun 2020 - 3 min read

'It's not disimilar to e-commerce growth': agency leaders disect the future of gaming advertising

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Publicis' Jason Tonelli: "It should become part of the 70,20,10 rule of taking 10% of a budget and throwing it at gaming to try a few different things over an expanded period time. Only then are brands going to see where they fit in the ecosystem."

Understanding the gaming ecosystem, shedding the gaming 'stigma' and avoiding advertising annoyance are the core drivers in growing the gaming industry's ad revenue, says Publicis' Chief Product Officer Jason Tonelli and Essence Senior Planning Director Jamarr Mills. Gaming audiences have surged through Covid. 

What you need to know:

  • Agency leaders say it is now time to actively "test and trial" more gaming advertising campaigns as audiences surge during Covid
  • Game advertising platform AdColony says 57% of all Australians now mobile game daily in some form,  up from 43% prior to the Covid outbreak
  • Publicis Chief Product Officer Jason Tonelli says there are similarities between the advancement of gaming and e-commerce during the pandemic
  • Tonelli argues more clients "understand the ecosystem" and be aware of the reach opportunities it provides as it becomes "more relevant in the channel mix"
  • Jamarr Mills, Senior Planning Director at Essence, GroupM's data agency, says  brands still need assistance when it comes to understanding a value exchange and "avoiding annoyance".


Sharing in the digital acceleration

Speaking on a panel hosted by gaming advertising platform AdColony and its local boss Lance Traore, agency leaders have shared their thoughts on the evolution of gaming and how brands can take advantage of its rapid growth.

The Future of Gaming Panel featured Jason Tonelli (CEO Performics & CPO Publicis Groupe ANZ), Jamarr Mills (Senior Planning Director, Essence), Brad Timmins (Founder & MD, eGEN) and Tom Simpson (SVP, Brand & Exchange, APAC, AdColony).

Addressing recent statistics released by AdColony, which revealed 57% of all Australians now mobile game daily in some form, up from 43% prior to the Covid outbreak, Tonelli says it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore its value.

He says gaming is sharing in the digital acceleration that has impacted countless mediums across the media mix since lockdown measures were put in place earlier this year.

Tonelli says there is clear synergies between e-commerce and gaming, with clients looking to take advantage of the increased amount of time spend in front of screens.

"There is still going to be a long path back to how things were pre-Covid and gaming will still have a major part to play in people’s lives on the road of recovery," he says. "And gamers are an influential audience; they have money and are buying during this period."

"If you look at the e-commerce statistics in the last four months, we’ve seen it accelerate to a point we predicted it would reach in 2025."

Tonelli says the same similarities can be seen in the gaming space, however, it comes down to marketers and their agency partners to capitalise on the growth and become "early adopters" of what will continue to be an "relevant part of the media channel mix" moving forward.


Avoiding annoyance

While there are brands advertising throughout gaming from eSports to mobile, through to console, Mills says one of the pitfalls for brands remains creating a clear value exchange for consumers.

He says too often brands simply want to be in the space without understanding the various sub-genres that exist within the gaming sector.

"For brands it comes down to a bit more about how conscious they are of gaming. When we talk about it, it’s almost similar to how we talk about social as a channel," Mills says. "Social as a channel is broken up into multiple different levels of experiences, platforms, and user behaviours."

"Like gaming, you have e-sports, consoles, mobile gaming, each of these have similar behaviours but are still individual entry points for brands. The hesitation you see is more around marketers being unconscious to gaming as opposed to being against it."

According to Mills, this leads to the issue of "annoyance". He says this is when a brand simply appears within a game at an important time during a players progress or must be seen before moving on to the next stage.

He says while there are acceptable examples of this, the brand must be providing a fair value exchange. More often brand simply place creative that must be viewed for 30 seconds and can be seen across any medium that may not fit into the gaming environment.

"A brand doesn’t want to show up in a gaming situation such as an in-break or incentivised reward space where the consumer just wants to get to the next phase of the game," Mills says.

"It’s generally not a fair value exchange between the brand and the player. Making sure that it feels authentic and not annoying is one of the key things that we try to assess in any space and making sure that there is a true value is no different for both the user and inventory itself."

Founder & MD of eGEN, an eSports ad agency, Timmins says this is most prevalent in his sector, which is often met with confusion over exactly how a brand can enter the space.

He says not every part of the gaming ecosystem is going to work for every brand, just as one sporting code may work better for certain brands than others.

"Saying you want an eSports strategy is a lot like saying to your agency I just want a sports strategy – well okay but there is AFL all the way through to Badminton," Timmins says. "This has certainly proliferated even further through the evolution of multiple sectors of the industry."

"A one size fits all approach is very complimented, especially when you’re looking at the gaming and esports competitive set -other forms of digital media are trying to measure these campaigns on a cost per thousand or reach and frequency metric, which isn't always going to be applicable in gaming."

He says brands will need to be patient with the sector and accept that there will have to be a different set of "success metrics" used if marketers are going to get the best out of their budgets.

"Brands can still obtain a lot of reach if you do it the right way but it all boils down to the message that you are aiming for in each of those sub-genres because the buying demos we place around digital audiences usually aren’t the right fit when it comes to gaming," Timmins says.

"So it comes down to agencies marrying a new success metric with an old school mentality around digital audiences at the same time."


Respect the ecosystem

Traore argues that gamers have consistently been misrepresented which has had a detrimental impact on how brands chose to engage with them.

He says the concept of a lazy teenager or out of work male in their parent basement isn't reflective of the multiple demographics engaging across the multiple sub-genres.

For example, 60% of Candy Crush (which made $2.3 billion dollars in 2019) players are the main decision-makers in their household and 54% of mobile gamers are women and 72% of all parents are mobile gamers (global webindex Q4 2019).

Tonelli says gamers have been treated differently, but so they should be as each experience is different.

"In mobile, it is broadcast. You can use that thinking of what a brand might be doing on a Channel Seven, Nine or outdoor ad and what they do in mobile can almost be similar,"  he says. "But when you start moving into console or PC and start getting down that pointy end of gaming, those consumers want to be treated differently because of the experience."

"If you think about why they are gaming, it’s for entertainment value, an escape and more, therefore the experience needs to be different because it’s a different ecosystem you are going into."

Tonelli says a lot of the time when his agencies are consulting with brands that are trying to enter the space, Publicis advise that they "respect the ecosystem".

He says the ad needs to form part of the game and that a brand isn’t the main focus.

"They shouldn’t be there to intrude in that space but instead participate in that escapism and add value. It’s not always about ‘giving extra coins’ or those add-ons," Tonelli says.

"It’s more about, if a brand buys that billboard in a game, does it add to reality, does it make it more believable because im streaming the right type of content in the right environment. If you’re making it an unreal experience, you’re actually defeating the purpose and doesn’t create brand love."

Regarding the future of gaming advertising, Tonelli says the critical thinking for brands should be around running small tests.

"It should become part of the 70,20,10 rule of taking 10% of a budget and throwing it at gaming to try a few different things over an expanded period time. Only then are brands going to see where they fit in the ecosystem and where they can drive the best value," he says.

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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