IAB Member Q&A: Pause your game, this is important!

On February 25, 2021 Research & Resources

Gaming’s popularity has been on the rise and the events of 2020 have accelerated the uptake with many consumers turning to gaming to stay in touch with friends and fill the time during lockdowns. We already know there isn’t a typical ‘gamer’ so what else can we find out about this platform and how can advertisers both leverage these insights and find new and exciting ways to get involved in 2021?

Thanks to SMG Studios, OpenSlate, Twitch, Magnite and AdColony for their contributions. 


Ashley Ringrose, Studio Head, SMG Studios

How has the last 12 months changed the dynamics of gaming?

Gaming has been the largest entertainment industry for a long time, with more money spent than film and music combined, but only in the last 12 months has this become more evident.

While Hollywood grinded to a halt and music lost the ability to hold concerts, the gaming industry powered on. Yes, there were still delays, but the blockbuster releases flowed through every month of 2020 and culminated with new consoles launching in time for Christmas.

With people in lockdown, we saw more families gaming together – games that could be played as a collective team grew exponentially, as did games that had online multiplayer. Even our own game, RISK, which we licence off Hasbro and is an online multiplayer board game, saw a 2x increase in usage during the March/April period of 2020, with usage still up 25% from the year before, and Moving Out – a family-friendly, multi-player game we launched last year – has seen exponential growth and recognition. Connecting with others over a video game has undoubtedly become so much more important in these socially distant times, and no doubt that trend will remain for some time to come.

Opportunities in gaming are now across all screen sizes from TVs screens through to phones, does the screen size impact the type of approach for any gaming focussed activity? 

Definitely. Mobile gaming is VERY different to console gaming, not just in the audience playing but also what’s happening at the time. With mobile gaming, there is a lot more multi-tasking and snackable gaming (i.e short bursts of 5-10 minutes) while console or PC gaming is longer sessions.  Mobile gaming is dominated by free games with ads, while console and PC is very ad free (unless you count in-game ads on some sporting titles). Your options for integration and advertising are therefore much greater in mobile gaming. 

The barrier to entry is lower too. I’ve seen dozens of brands release games in the last few years, but I haven’t seen any on consoles. The KFC Dating Sim (I love You Colonel Sanders) is probably the most high profile and well received brand game released on mainstream gaming platform Steam ever. Overall, there is a lot of untapped opportunity there for brands if they treat it with the same respect as other channels.


Poppy Hill, Managing Director APAC, OpenSlate

There is a common concern around brand safety in gaming environments, what advice would you give marketers and agencies to ensure that they feel comfortable investing in this area? 

Marketers now are increasingly prioritising the content their ads are surrounded by, however, finding the right environment for their ads requires more than basic screening for brand safety controls such as keyword strategies that can’t account for whether the content is suitable. In other words, the content marketer’s support is part of what tells the world their brand values and what they stand for. When it comes to driving favourable brand perceptions, content suitability matters. In this regard, pre-campaign strategising around high-quality video gaming content requires marketers to carefully consider suitability alignment for their brand that translates to positive consumer engagement.

From this perspective, in a recent OpenSlate study conducted by MediaScience, people’s reactions to ads across video gaming content were researched to see whether the relevance of the environment around which they appeared affected ad attention, brand attitudes and purchase intent. The findings indicated that while ads appearing next to unaligned content received the same level of cognitive attention as ads appearing near aligned content, ads were rated as less liked, less relevant, less engaging and more intrusive when they were paired with unaligned content.

The pandemic has given rise to massive volumes of gaming content and an incredible opportunity for marketers to reach highly engaged consumers that are aligned with current consumer behaviour and values. Marketers that develop pre-campaign strategies running ads around high-quality, relevant gaming environments will produce the most powerful results for their brand. 

Some strategies that marketers should address as they architect their brand safety and suitability policies include: consideration of their brand’s values that are centred around brand suitability; aligning these values to the content landscape that marketers want to actively support and cultivate positive brand perceptions; understanding the content targeting capabilities and limitations of each platform and ad product; and full transparency and understanding of ad placements that controls brand-safe environments.


Ricky Chanana, Head of Sales AUNZ, Twitch

How has the last 12 months changed the dynamics of gaming? 

In 2020, more than 13M people decided to stream for the first time on Twitch. It was the year with many aspects of changes – especially in the way individuals consume media and entertainment. Not only were more people still tuning in to online entertainment, they also spent more hours consuming it. 

This accelerated rise in internet penetration has also driven the shift to online play. Besides the usual first-person shooter (i.e. APEX Legends) or battle arena (i.e. League of Legends) games, we have seen the rise of social games such as Animal Crossing, Fall Guys and Among Us that have gained lots of traction. 

For Twitch, this change also meant a growth in unique users, hours watched, content broadcast and the sheer number of new streamers and channels. So what does this all mean? Gaming is now a very significant player in the attention economy. And where people spend their time is where brands need to be. Brands are adapting and changing the way they interact with their customers. For instance, with the F1 season taking a back seat, drivers and celebrities alike have turned to virtual racing in an official “virtual grand prix,” and viewers tuning in live on Twitch. 

We’ve also seen how brands are toggling their way into gaming. In late 2020, Tourism New Zealand wanted to drive Australians’ consideration of New Zealand as a must-go destination by showcasing the myriad unique encounters the country has to offer. To accomplish this, it commissioned the design of a marketing campaign website that not only provided an engaging first-person walkthrough of the country, but also gamified the visiting experience. And Twitch played a vital role in the launch as we brought in streamers to further amplify the campaign with their micro-communities. 

With that, we can see that gaming today is entwined with all industries. In other words, gaming is at the centre of culture and there is now a whole world beyond the screen. 

What would be the best piece of advice you would give to advertisers on getting their brand into Gaming? 

  1. Don’t dad dance 

Trying too hard won’t work. Talk to the audience authentically while staying true to your natural brand voice. Don’t have to be like them, just show you get them 

  1. Have a gaming strategy 

The ecosystem is large and ever evolving. Ensure you focus on the right elements for your brand & don’t spread yourself too thin 

  1. Be versatile 

Gaming moves quickly. What’s hot today may not be in a few months time. Being willing and able to adapt is valuable 

  1. Embrace the sell out 

Don’t be ashamed to be a brand in the space. Be transparent, honest, entertaining and intrinsic to the audiences experience

  1. Can’t be too serious 

Gaming is the ultimate meme culture. Showing humour and self awareness as a brand goes a long way to fostering affinity


Rohan Creasey, Director Solutions Engineering EMEA and JAPAC, Magnite

What should brands consider when engaging with the community?  Or what should marketers avoid in terms of marketing to gamers or in gaming environments?

Authenticity is paramount. Brands should look to build genuine connections with gamers in a gamer-friendly way. Advertising should be fluid and intrinsic, placed within quality game content, during play and without disrupting the game. Simple messaging is how advertisers should engage with gamers. Advertisers should also remember that gamers are consumers too; individuals who play sports, watch movies and buy things online – this offers advertisers a unique opportunity to communicate and engage with Australia’s diverse gaming audience.

Opportunities in gaming are now across all screen sizes from TV screens through to phones, does the screen size impact the type of approach for any gaming focussed activity?

It’s about making each experience better. Screen size plays a part in this, but it’s not the only metric. Like all advertising, optimisation is key; What is the environment? What’s the context of the placement? Does it work for my brand and for my intended audience? Different screens can provide a change in context but it’s the gaming environment – the style and scale – that should have marketers excited. For example, in a sports game there’s literally a whole stadium available to work with. Advertisers should seek to work with experts that understand the channel with the ability to customize advertising for different devices and above all, maintain a strict gaming-first ethos where game play is respected regardless of the screen size.


Lance Traore, Country Manager, ANZ, AdColony

What would be the best piece of advice you would give to advertisers on getting their brand into Gaming? 

My first piece of advice would be to kill the notion of “a gamer” being some niche creature from outer space that needs to be communicated in a very intricate way. Why, because everybody is a gamer just like everybody is a reader or a watcher.

This is nothing new, gaming has been dominant in Australia for a very long time. In 2019 Gaming was the number one digital entertainment activity for time spent across all Australians, It’s bigger than video/movies (Nielsen digital panel,  Jun 2018 – May 2019, PC P2+, Smartphone and Tablet P18+). In fact, 79% of all Australians 16-64 game on a regular basis (Global Webindex Q4 20).

For brands and agencies this means that it’s no longer a question of whether their target audience are gamers. Instead, brands and agencies need to ask themselves where and how do I find my audience within gaming, because they are there.

Today most brands are approaching gaming much like they did with social media a decade ago thinking they need to have a gaming angle in their campaign to be in gaming. Instead, brands need to look at gaming as a mass reach channel part of their always on activity. Now the majority of campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube are not “social campaigns” and most brands use those platforms for efficient reach and for the characteristics that their formats offer. Gaming should be no different.

As an example, 80% of Australian mums are gamers (GWI Q4 2020) and their preferred device is by far mobile. Mobile gaming mums’ game a lot with the majority of them playing multiple sessions per day. Mobile gaming video is the only environment outside of BVOD where you can get full screen video at scale. If you are a video focused brand targeting mums such as a Coles or Woolworths you need to have mobile gaming video in your always on strategy.

Don’t get me wrong I am not against gaming specific campaign executions, I’m for it but you have to learn how to crawl before you walk.

The above is just my first piece of advice because if you don’t have gaming in your always on you are not present where Australians spend most of their time.

There is a common concern around brand safety in gaming environments, what advice would you give marketers and agencies to ensure that they feel comfortable investing in this area?

It’s a huge misconception in the advertising industry that gaming is somehow not a brand safe environment.

I think this general negative notions dates back to when video games started being popular. For a long period, gaming was demonised in the media and many were trying to prove that there was a correlation between violent crimes such as school shootings and playing video games. It was the same situation when people were trying to connect gaming with the growing issue of obesity among young people. Both these hypothesises have through numerous studies been proven incorrect.

These are just two examples but over the last few decades there has been an undeserved negative narrative around gaming leading to brands and advertisers having a negative view on gaming as an environment and a media channel.

If we look strictly at games as an advertising channels and excluding influencers, then it’s one of the most brand safe environments to advertise in. Games are professionally produced content just like a movie or a series. Gaming doesn’t contain any user generated content to worry about. It doesn’t contain any news or misinformation that can be unsuitable which can be hard for a brand to anticipate. In other words, gaming is a very static environment with little to know brand safety surprises.

Now, when it comes to brand suitability, then different brands will have different approaches to gaming just like in any channel. Some brands may deem shooting games or other types of violent games as unsuitable for them and some won’t. If you are a brand and don’t want to feature in those types of games, you can just exclude them.

I think over time brands need to reconsider what it means to feature in an action game as this is an incredibly popular genre. If a brand like Audi can put Tom Cruise in one of their cars and have him act out an action scene in Mission Impossible, then I don’t see why they would reject the idea in a virtual world.