We caught up with Luke Aldridge and Peter Jacobs, Client Partners at Dentsu Aegis Network, to hear their thoughts on all things gaming!
Luke and Pete work in the Amnet Global team, the programmatic arm of Dentsu Aegis Network. They work across several global brands to deliver multimarket campaigns, sharing best in class suggestions and innovative strategies to ensure the best campaign delivery for their clients.
What work have you been doing in gaming recently?
A year ago, we started researching where the gaming industry stood, since then we've seen the opportunities grow massively. And through working with companies like Venatus, we've been able to get a deeper understanding of the gaming world.
Through this research, we've come to understand that gaming is not just one pillar - it spans across esports, streaming, influencers, console and mobile.
The main focus for us has been on education, for both ourselves and our clients. We're both casual gamers and would say we have a good understanding of the gaming space, yet continue to keep learning to stay ahead of the curve, as the gaming world evolving at a rapid pace.
The gaming industry is in an exciting phase, full of innovation and tremendous growth. People are starting to acknowledge the gaming industry has been largely overlooked for a long time.
We're working on getting the message out there that gamers and gaming audiences are not the demographic we thought of ten years ago, or even five years ago. Brands are starting to accept their target audience plays games, and would like to know how they can connect with them through gaming experiences, as they are becoming harder to reach through their traditional media mix.
Will gaming and Esports play a big role in your 2020 strategy?
Esports is a vast opportunity; it's a very dynamic space that is in a boom phase, and the winners and losers are not yet clear. We expect to see many of the leagues struggle to reach profitability within the first few years, and many of them may go bust or merge with others. Esports teams are different from leagues in that they require less upfront capital expenditure to get off the ground, and also enjoy more diverse revenue streams coming from digital, content, sponsorships and of course prize money. Some of them have successfully developed a lifestyle brand too - selling apparel and gaming equipment. For us, it's essential to educate first and see how these dynamics in esports play out over the next few years.
We know we can't dive into esports feet first. For some brands, esports is going to be a long term ambition or a final destination.
Brands feel that they can show their personality in esports by creating content with the best pro-players in the world. And most importantly, they feel that they can talk to their audience on a new level.
When asked about how they were marketing esports to their brands:
For us, digital comes first - the online display or video inventory that can be bought or sold. But DAN is a global agency network and we have all the capabilities we need to go beyond digital and into events, experiential and more to reach these audiences across all the pillars of gaming.
Working in the programmatic space, we are digital-first, when we think of esports, we think of it as a product. In the real world, the premier league is a product, digitally, for us, esports is a product.
We have found that the best way to educate agencies about esports is to talk about traditional sports such as football, rugby or F1. It's a digital repositioning of the real world.
What gaming stat has surprised you the most?
I find most gaming stats pretty staggering, some that stand out are that a third of the world's population plays online games and half a billion people watch esports. More recently, I saw that around 60% of esports viewers don't watch any linear tv at all. That is a significant shift and resonates a lot with clients.
Every time I hear a gaming/esports stat, I'm still surprised by the size of it. One of the most surprising stat I heard from the Venatus team, was that the Fortnite World Cup winner brought home $4.3 million last year. This prize money was more than Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep for winning Wimbledon the same year!
How would you define a 'gamer'?
The best answer I can give is: it is someone that plays games online. The old stereotypes have mostly died off already, but I actively try to avoid using the word gamer as it still has those connotations of teenage boys.
I echo Lukes comments, if I said to my mum 'you're a gamer', she would probably deny it, but she has sudoku on her phone!
We don't have a name for people that watch videos, or people who click on ads. We don't go around calling them 'browsers'. The label of a gamer has changed so much over the years. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up changing the classification so that gamers are only people that game for a living.
What aspect of gaming do you find most interesting?
A lot of aspects of gaming blow me away, most notably is the culture shift we've seen over the last ten years. You can now play games in a social environment, and your rank, status, gaming ability and the weapons you've unlocked are a proxy for your social status in the real world - particularly among young boys. When I was at school, it was more about your ability to play football, rather than how good you were at playing video games. There's been a fundamental shift as it pertains to the real social world.
We're seeing some heartening social interactions happening online because of gaming. Of course, like most things online, it's not all good, and you have to be mindful of negative comments and cyber-bullying, but it's opened doors for a lot of people to have opportunities they would not have had ten years ago.
For me, I have two answers to this question - one from the gaming side and one from the marketing aspect. The innovation side of gaming is interesting to me as it impacts the gaming experience and the marketing opportunities for brands.
As a racing fan, the idea that in the not so distant future I'll be able to put on a headset and race an F1 car around Monaco to an extremely real-life degree is amazing. And to a marketer, tapping into these immersive formats within these environments is very exciting. No other media channel can rival gaming with creativity; the critical thing for brands and marketers is to ensure we are improving the experience for the end-user.
What is the biggest challenge in getting brands to embrace gaming and gaming audiences?
Education is the biggest challenge for us, and this has two sides to it:
● Understanding the audience overlap between gaming titles or influencers with a brand's own target audience, and backing this up with data.
● Defining how we measure success in these new environments. Gaming is not a passive experience, so the metrics need to reflect this.
More broadly speaking, for us, it's all about the how and the why - how can our brand show it's personality? Why should we be there? When the penny drops for our clients, it's massive and gets people motivated to do something. It's getting from education into a strategy and a media plan that is key.
Brand safety is a must with any campaign, but we also like to talk to clients about brand suitability. It's essential to understand the dos and don'ts for each brand. Fortunately, when it comes to gaming, there is a whole host of gaming genres and platforms for brands to explore. There isn't a 'one size fits all' approach, UFC is ideal for a sports broadcaster, while a luxury fashion brand is a better match for mobile puzzle game reaching women aged 25+.
One of the many benefits of gaming environments is that they are much more predictable, from FIFA to Tetris, these sites or apps do exactly what they say on the tin. With news or cultural sites/apps, you are never truly sure what news article your ad will be sitting by. Let's take the recent news headlines as an example - some brands wouldn't be too keen to be placed by a headline about the Coronavirus.
Which brands would you like to see embrace gaming in 2020?
The honest answer? All of them. We're not exaggerating when we say that. Any brand you can think of could embrace gaming.
Even B2B brands should be looking at it. The question should be, why should brand X embrace gaming, and how should they do it? Regardless of the answer, our advice to brands looking to explore gaming is to show respect to the end-user and improve, not detract from the experience.