With over 3 billion gamers worldwide, it’s hard for marketers to ignore the potential of video games as an advertising medium without missing out on a diverse, ever-expanding consumer demographic. Yet, to effectively tap into this potential, a strategic, data-driven approach is essential.
In a previous article we discussed how programmatic ad campaigns can be leveraged to further innovate digital out-of-home ad campaigns. The advent of video games as an entertainment powerhouse begs the question: What if similar strategies could be applied to a different, more immersive kind of digital environment?
By combining the innovative and immersive nature of video game environments with the agile and automated nature of programmatic ad campaigns, advertisers can leverage a largely untapped market and lend their voices to an inventive new form of digital marketing. Read on to learn how to embrace the nuances of the gaming marketplace and discover how brands can position themselves at the forefront of an ever-evolving marketing frontier (power-ups not required) .
Why In-Game Advertising Is On the Rise
Interactive digital entertainment has come a long way since the days of Pong and Tetris; video games come in all shapes and sizes, from AAA single-player narrative experiences to live-service massively multiplayer behemoths. For advertisers, it can be difficult to determine an entry point in an industry where some AAA game development studios look like Hollywood production facilities.
Fortunately, emerging advertising formats combined with sophisticated game engines give companies the space to make their case without intruding into the average gamer’s moment-to-moment experience. But if you’re not familiar with the modern gaming scene, you may be wondering if it’s worth the effort to break into a new marketing sphere.
In a recent LinkedIn poll, we found that 60% of responders perceive in-game advertisements as only moderately effective, compared to 20% who perceive them as highly effective and another 20% who are not familiar with in-game ads in the first place. This somewhat tepid response may be due to the specialized and medium-specific nature of these ads, but modern gaming is far from a niche hobby.
Video games are an all-encompassing element of the global zeitgeist, and the related market share speaks to the singular nature of the medium. According to Statista, video game revenue is projected to reach $334 billion by the end of 2023. Gamers make up an audience larger than that of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Disney Plus, and ESPN… combined. The average US adult spends just over an hour playing video games in one form or another each day. Combine all of these factors and you can start to see the untapped potential of breaking into this marketplace as an advertiser.
Currently, mobile games dominate the global gaming landscape thanks to a low barrier to entry and the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in the everyday lives of gamers and non-gamers alike. If you’ve played a mobile game yourself, you may be familiar with the nature of advertisements in this medium. In some cases, players can receive in-game rewards for watching advertisement videos between sessions. In others, ads may serve as “intermissions” between levels or rooms, establishing a more deliberate pace to the average gaming session in the same way that commercial breaks are interspersed between television programs. These “In-App ” ads are ideal for advertisers looking to generate more clicks and drive app installs, though they tend to be more intrusive and risk having gamers sour to the brands breaking up their latest binge session.
But advertisers aren’t limited to these in-game interruptions when browsing for ad space. Modern gaming on PCs and consoles allows games to utilize exceptional processing power to create entire 3D worlds for players to inhabit. To that end, “Blended In-Game” ads offer a non-intrusive but elaborate alternative. These ads are woven into standard gameplay as part of the game’s environment, such as a billboard along the racetrack of Gran Turismo Sport or more blatant product placement as part of the game’s environmental storytelling, like Norman Reedus’ characters penchant for Monster Energy Drink in Death Stranding. Think of these inclusions as similar to product placement within a movie; not necessarily the focus of any individual scene but a part of the scene nonetheless.
Advertisers looking to innovate will naturally gravitate towards Blended In-Game ad types, but their inclusion and application can vary wildly from game to game. This is due to both the complexity of most ad-ready games and a reflection of the multifaceted nature of gamers themselves.
Who Are Gamers?
It’s a common misconception to pigeonhole gamers as a niche, homogenous group. In reality, the gaming community is extremely diverse, spanning every conceivable age, gender, socioeconomic background and geographical location. From microtransactions within free-to-play games to premium AAA titles and gaming hardware, the industry’s revenues, surpassing billions annually, are a testament to the formidable spending power clout of its audience. As such, advertisers are presented with a unique opportunity to tap into an engaged, diverse, and economically empowered segment of the global population.
If you’re still on the fence as to whether or not gamers are an audience worth chasing, consider the following:
- 62% of US adults and 76% of those under 18 regularly play video games in one form or another, making gamers nearly synonymous with the average consumer of any form of media.
- The average age of gamers is 32, with 53% identifying as male and 46% identifying as female.
- Gamers have an undeniable amount of spending power compared to their peers, as those who play 10 or more hours of video games a week have twice as much disposable income as non-gamers.
- Mobile gamers are responsible for roughly 70% of all ad revenue across mobile ad networks, not including social media sites.
- Gamers generally don’t stick to just one platform. 72% of console or PC gamers play on multiple platforms, allowing for multiple opportunities to view Blended In-Game or In-App ads.
For all these reasons and many, many more, a one-size-fits-all advertising strategy simply won’t work for an audience this broad. To properly capture the attention and interest of such a vast audience base, advertisers will need to lean in to the innovation of programmatic ad campaigns.
The Programmatic Touch: Merging Precision with Scale
As we’ve already discussed, programmatic ads are seen as the next step in the evolution of digital advertisements. Consumers can already find programmatic ads through digital out-of-home mediums or digital display ads such as ads on gas station TV screens, movie theaters, digital billboards and rideshare screens, to name a few. However, the advent of in-game advertising affords brands a unique opportunity for audience engagement in their preferred virtual gaming environments.
The primary benefit of programmatic ad campaigns over traditional ad buys is convenience. Instead of advertisers brokering deals for exclusive in-game placements,, programmatic ads automatically manage the transactions related to buying and placing digital advertisements . Real-time data combined with campaign-specific algorithms allow advertisers to take most of the legwork out of managing campaigns while still chasing higher cost efficiency and ROI across wider audiences.
The data-driven and dynamic nature of programmatic ads allows brands to adjust their approach as needed for timely and relevant ad opportunities. New developments like contextual targeting and the removal of third-party cookies to allay privacy concerns mean that programmatic ads are constantly evolving and ready to adjust to the ebbs and flows of the digital advertising landscape as a whole.
So how do you mesh programmatic ads with video games?
Connecting Programmatic Campaigns to In-Game Ads
The fusion of programmatic ad campaigns and in-game advertisements offers advertisers a potent combination that maximizes reach, engagement, and return on investment. The agile, data-driven nature of programmatic ads combined with the immersive nature and substantial reach of video games means that brands can seamlessly integrate their ads into expansive, fleshed-out digital ecosystems for the benefit of an audience primed for engagement.
The immersive nature of in-game ads means that they can complement other digital marketing efforts to reach as many new eyes as possible. Brands can utilize in-game, social media and traditional advertising mediums to create holistic campaigns that span multiple channels. The cross-promotion potential for such campaigns should not be underestimated, as 45% of video game players agree that, compared to movies, music or television, video games provide them with the most value for their purchase.
Furthermore, as both the gaming and advertising sectors grow increasingly complex and multifaceted, the opportunities for integration multiply. Games today aren’t limited to consoles or PCs; they thrive on mobile devices, web platforms, and even augmented reality environments. Programmatic campaigns can leverage this ubiquity and ensure a consistent brand presence across these platforms while tailoring the delivery to each medium. While the methods of delivery might vary, the underlying brand message should remain cohesive, coherent, and consistent with the brand in question. Tailoring the message to the medium doesn’t mean diluting the brand; it means presenting it in a contextually relevant manner that resonates with the audience.
Beyond these strategies, there’s an undeniable human element that is instrumental in bridging the gap between brands and gamers: the community. The gaming world is rife with influencers, content creators, and tight-knit communities who can provide invaluable word-of-mouth marketing. According to recent research, 51% of gamers advise other gamers and 47% influence other gamers.
By engaging these community members one at a time—whether through partnerships, sponsored events, or exclusive in-game content—brands can foster organic conversations around their products and services. In essence, merging programmatic ad campaigns with in-game advertisements isn’t just about smart tech; it’s about building genuine relationships between your brand and everyday players.
The trajectory of modern advertising is dynamic, digital, and driven by data. Video games are emerging as the new frontier of digital entertainment, giving audiences a sense of agency and immersion that is nearly impossible to replicate in any other medium. Gamers are a formidable force in the modern digital landscape, and new advertising methods combined with programmatic campaigns can give brands the ability to tap into this audience and greatly expand their reach.
The combination of programmatic ad campaigns and in-game advertisements signals a paradigm shift, showcasing how precision-targeted automation can be amplified in conjunction with immersive, interactive content. This synergy ensures that a brand’s message can resonate contextually, retaining brand consistency and authenticity no matter the medium.