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Why advertisers should be mad for mobile games in 2021

An immersive experience combined with mass appeal and low barriers to entry make mobile games a ripe opportunity for brands – here’s how to make the most of it

Why advertisers should be mad for mobile games in 2021

“The gaming audience today is as diverse as humanity itself,” is the modest claim of Jon Cooke, director of global advertisers and agencies at MoPub, Twitter’s monetisation platform for mobile app publishers. “2.6 million people will play a mobile game this year and they include everyone: me, you, your mother, your millennial sister, your aunt, your uncle.” 

Peter Jacobs, client partner at DGame, Dentsu’s gaming specialists, added: “It's rich territory for brands who want to speak to all different types of audiences. Even the eSports fans who might have built their own PC or got the latest consoles are still snacking games on mobile as well.” 

Fast growth
According to AdColony’s Global Mobile Gaming Research report, mobile gaming makes up nearly 50% of the total gaming market worldwide, and is also the fastest growing category of consumer behaviour period on mobile devices.

Mobile has grown up
Cooke says the maturity of mobile gaming runs in parallel to the way our broader digital landscape has become more subtle and sophisticated: intrusive pop-ups being replaced by native and banner ads. “A decade ago advertisers would have avoided gaming because in a mobile game you’d just have seen ads from other app developers, advertising other games,” he said. “And while that may be relevant, given the environment, it's not timely – it’s interruptive. Brands are starting to be more progressive and valuing the captive, engaged audience. They’re executing creative that follows that value exchange with, for example, rewarded video.”

Give something back
The relationship between the game developer and advertiser needs to be collaborative. 

“You need to give back to the end user,” explained Jacobs, “whether that is making the game more realistic, offering fresh content or giving them something entertaining to play with. On the flip side, you need to give the developer something too, which is where brands have something unique to offer. When that trade off happens, brands see the best engagement."

Immersion can help brand safety
“When you’re playing a mobile game you’re leaned in, you’re attentive” said Jacobs, though, he warned that ensuring brand safety does “require careful strategy and tactics”. Brands can utilise all the benefits of traditional in-app and mobile advertising with existing tools like third-party merit verifications and measurements.

“We've developed more sophisticated means of aligning content in certain gaming environments,” added Cooke. “Savvy marketers recognise that whether you’re a consumer or an employee of a business organisation, 90% of the time spent on a mobile device is spent in an app. The most effective brands are taking that immersive experience and crafting creative that lends itself to the brand being a feature – not an add on – to the gaming experience.

App developers can talk directly to demand-side agencies specifically about what their game is, what the user expects, and examples of brands that have advertised in that environment. Jacobs added: “It’s not just about whacking your logo on a game. You can do something far more bespoke and far more brand-appropriate to get that message across.”

That’s entertainment
Hyper-casual mobile games – like word games and puzzles – have low barriers to entry and draw a lot of time from users. “They're almost like social experiences, comparable to social media,” said Cooke. 

Mobile gaming ads are non-interruptive. “If a player is waiting, say, in a lobby, or waiting for their next load-up, for example, that's when brands can do something more targeted, with more calls to action,” explained Jacobs. There’s also Twitch, Facebook and YouTube which is why “the creative bounds are second to none”.  

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