Marketers expect to see gaming become its own media channel
Pictured: Kay Taylor, Mindshare Worldwide
From next year, the ad industry may see gaming emerge as a new, independent media channel, industry experts have predicted.
Speaking on a panel at Mediatel's Automated Trading Debate, Peter Jacobs, client partner, global at Dentsu's Amnet Programmatic Experts, said that the last couple of years have seen a "massive change" in the attitude of clients towards gaming as it becomes more mainstream.
"I think there's been a revolution there and this year [is] a kind of inflection point, where attitudes have slightly altered," he said.
"Next year, if done correctly, we could treat gaming as a new and separate media effectively. I'd predict that quite a few agencies would like to do that."
According to recent data from the Entertainment Retailers Association, the video gaming sector represents just over half (51.3%) of the entire UK entertainment industry, and is worth more than music and video combined at £3.86bn.
Peter Jacobs, Dentsu's Amnet Programmatic Experts
However, an element of education still needs to take place to generate client interest and eliminate any stigma around the content and ad formats.
"A lot of people still think gaming's about teenage boys in their bedroom," said Kay Taylor, global innovation and partnerships manager at Mindshare Worldwide. "It's actually a fifty-fifty split across all different games in terms of gender.
"I think that [education] starts from an agency perspective [and] getting people in agencies aware. That then trickles down to the clients eventually and we can take it from there."
Some advertisers have already dipped their toes into the gaming industry. Brands including Intel, Coca-Cola and Red Bull have sponsored eSports tournaments - such as the annual Fifa eWorld Cup - while others are advertising on live-streaming platform Twitch.
Some games also offer brands the opportunity to advertise within the in-game environment. For example, the Formula 1 games feature advertising billboards with genuine brands around their racing tracks to mimic the experience of the real-life sport. Already, F1 has described the advertising as 'digital OOH with an online metric'.
However, it's the fragmented nature of the gaming advertising sector which poses its biggest challenge - advertising opportunities not only include eSports sponsorships, live-stream advertising and in-game advertising, but also targeting gamers themselves on social media platforms.
"That's key from an agency point of view...It's how you tie those together," Jacobs said. "It needs to fit into the overall marketing plan. And do you treat those pillars as gaming as a whole or do you separate them out as specialisms?
"That's the challenge we have at the moment, and I can see it evolving into an overall entity, rather than siloed."
For the moment, the value of the games advertising sector is difficult to pin down, the panellists later told Mediatel News - varying depending on how it is defined, which "pillars" are included, and which of the largest game studios jump on board and when. (Statista has predicted that video games advertising spending worldwide will reach USD$5.05 billion by 2020).
Lewis Sherlock, Bidstack
However, Lewis Sherlock, VP, sales at in-game ad platform Bidstack, predicts that the value of game advertising will follow a similar path to digital audio and digital out of home - with "similar" spend levels. That would mean starting in the tens of millions in years one and two, before reaching the hundreds of millions in three to five years.
"We are very much at the beginning of that journey, but everything is in place for it to explode and mature," he said.
Other challenges outlined by the panel, particularly for in-game advertising, include technical issues around programmatic delivery, player identification and age verification, and a consumer backlash over ad placement in beloved games.