Predictions 2020: In-Game Advertising

As the decade draws to a close, ExchangeWire has invited thought leaders from across the industry to share their predictions and insight into what 2020 will hold for the ad tech and martech industries. Under the spotlight today is in-game advertising, where marketers are increasingly realising the value in the medium as a result of a diverse and engaged audience, esports growing at a phenomenal rate, and implementation of sophisticated technology solutions.

Expect shifts in 2020

The stats and headlines continue to pour in – gaming represents a big opportunity for marketers. And yet, adoption remains, at best, uneven. That said, we’ll see a number of shifts going into 2020 where game platforms will be making strategic moves to that woo even the most reluctant brands:

Relentlessly player-first philosophies: Context matters, and the consumer experience matters. This has become all the more apparent as consumers have been increasingly exposed to the “toll” they pay to social networks for utilisation of these services by merit of breaches of trust or personal data. Game studios, particularly ones with robust direct-to-consumer strategies, must see disruptive ad-experiences as non-starters, as having a healthy player base is paramount.

Naturalistic integrations: Being player first has a natural outcome of in-game ads continuing to wax more naturalistically integrated into the game experience. Gone are the days of clumsy and messy brand takeovers being something players can or should put up with, nor should game studios be willing to diminish their valuable IP in that way. Gaming is increasingly an entertainment sector tantamount with movies or TV in its place within the cultural zeitgeist – game studios will increasingly be invested in the concept of building franchises with a loyal consumer base. Doing so can pay dividends for both the brands and game studios, as an engaged fanbase is one that is much more likely to pay attention to brand messages.

Full portfolio plays: Perhaps one of the biggest barriers for brands into gaming is that it is a complicated space. With the rising proliferation of esports, though providing some of the most fertile ground for brand messages, never has in-game advertising been more daunting. However, game companies will increasingly leverage opportunities to bring the full heft of their portfolios – not just the esports, but the games the esports are played within, etc. – to bring opportunities to market that introduce multiple touchpoints to marketers for one of the most under-leveraged audiences in advertising, game enthusiasts.

Jonathan Stringfield, VP of marketing, measurement and insights, Activision Blizzard Media

In-game popularisation

In the last decade, gaming has changed — and so have the gamers. Gaming has become more immersive, enriching, and personalised. As a result, the advertising of the future will have to mirror those developments. Take a look at any advertising landscape and you will notice the trend: the era of blind promotions is behind us. We are now looking towards a future of ultra-targeted messaging and dynamic creative optimisation. This is where in-game advertising is king.

I’m excited to watch the new decade bring us totally immersive and custom in-game experiences on the back of the continuous adoption of battle-tested digital advertising standards — viewability, programmatic capabilities, brand safety, and others. “Omnichannel” is the buzzword for brands that want to use all possible touchpoints to reach their customers and connect their online and offline interactions. In-game advertising is definitely the go-to channel for this.

The introduction of 5G will provide an extra boost by empowering advertisers to leverage targeting options for in-game advertising. 5G will also enable brands to find new channels to connect with their audiences and procure better-quality data while taking into consideration the global data minimisation trend. As 2020 approaches, technological developments continue to speed up, and gaming grows much bigger than before, I expect “in-game popularisation” to be the catchphrase of the year.

Natalia Vasilyeva, VP Marketing, Anzu.io

Virtual environments

Gaming is on a positive trajectory. The popularity of free-to-play games such as Fortnite – offering access to more than 250 million users – has attracted the attention of marketers, and even has the potential to emerge as a new social network for certain demographics to play games but also socialise with their peers. For marketers, gaming presents a variety of opportunities – which previously may have been overlooked – and should be considered a strategic component of omnichannel campaigns.

The premium environment offered within gaming has potential to deliver high levels of engagement with a vast, and growing audience. Its untapped potential to reach specific demographics through immersive in-game ads and video in high-performing mobile environments can deliver greater brand awareness for a multitude of brand advertisers.

To achieve scale with key demographics beyond 2020, audience perception must be addressed. To widen the appeal and combat misconceptions, “gaming” could be rebranded as “virtual environments”. These virtual environments have the ability to mimic real-life advertising, and can take inspiration from digital out-of-home learnings, to generate an outcome when a direct path to purchase isn’t possible and create a truly engaging experience for the user.

Chris Hardiman, product director, Xaxis