IAB UK Gaming Week Debate: Can gaming and advertising truly co-exist?

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May 13, 2024

IAB UK Gaming Week Debate: Can gaming and advertising truly co-exist?

This question was put to IAB UK members from across the gaming and digital advertising ecosystem during the IAB UK Gaming Week. Laura Ballesteros, Group Head, Venatus, joined Xaxis, Twitch, Mindfuture World, Frameplay and MoPub to share her view on the unique opportunity gaming presents to advertisers.

Read on to learn about the exclusive nature of gaming environments as we challenge the belief that only certain brands can get involved.

Gaming for everyone

The gaming industry has created a diverse and inclusive community where everyone is welcome, whatever device, genre or skillset- it's all gaming! 

Even though gaming and its audiences have evolved massively in recent years, there is still a belief that only certain brands can or should get involved. And that they can only reach gamers through big metaverses, in-game placements or esports sponsorships. These marketing opportunities are incredible for brands and are well worth shouting about, but they aren't for everyone. We find they are best suited to brands with particular campaign objectives and budget levels. These game environments are just one part of the broader gaming ecosystem. 

When gamers shut down their console or stop streaming their gameplay, they are still gamers. They will continue to consume gaming content such as researching the next big gaming release, learning how to improve their FIFA squad or playing the Sims on their phone on the train. For brands looking to maximise reach and awareness across gaming audiences, these 'away from the game' environments are incredibly effective.

We must stop seeing gamers as an audience that can only be reached through a handful of environments. On the contrary, these audiences are much more accessible than brands may think, and contextually relevant sites play a huge role in their gaming lifestyle.

It's time we make game advertising as inclusive as the gamers themselves.

Not every brand can afford to run a custom partnership with a game or sponsor an esports tournament, but they can afford to include gamers as a target audience within their campaigns. There are more affordable, scalable digital formats available to brands that can utilise existing creative concepts in the same way brands do when reaching other audiences such as music or sports fans.

Rather than going headfirst into 'what is the biggest game at the moment and how can we feature our product within it', or 'what's the biggest esports championship we can sponsor', we advise brands first to take a few steps back. And to share what it is they are looking to achieve with their advertising campaign, their budget and the demographic they are looking to reach. Are they looking to get in front of as many people as possible? Are they after cost-effective video views? Do they want to drive people to their e-commerce site? We must address these critical KPIs first. Because, more often than not, a more traditional video or display approach across contextually relevant gaming platforms will be the best solution.

One of our big objectives as a company is educating brands about all the different types of opportunities that are currently available to reach gaming audiences. We want brands to see that there is room for everyone to get involved in gaming- all types of brands, all budgets and all campaign KPIs

We celebrate every time a brand decides to get involved in gaming, whether through Venatus or another gaming publisher. The way the industry views gaming has evolved massively, and we want to ensure that brands know just how accessible this audience is. If 86% of the UK adult population are playing games, we need to start focusing more on the fact that gaming platforms are an effective way to engage with most audiences at scale in a pretty cost-effective way.

The advertising opportunities beyond the high profile gaming environments are plentiful, and there is room for everyone to get involved. 

The 2020 IAB UK Adspend Report showed the sheer scale of display advertising compared to more niche game marketing opportunities. Yet, the narrative of 'how to reach gamers' rarely mentions these affordable, scalable digital formats. There are enough walled gardens in media. Let's make sure gaming doesn't become one of them by informing brands of the full scope of marketing opportunities available.