How Consumers Really Feel About Ads in Games | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How Consumers Really Feel About Ads in Games

By Dominick Fils-Aimé

With the uptick in gaming during the lockdown, the rise of competitive esports, and the growth of the metaverse, gaming has become an additional frontier for brands to engage consumers. To help inform marketing strategies aimed at gamers, DISQO surveyed over 28,000 consumers to assess their attitudes related to gaming and in-game advertising. The brand found that 62 percent of respondents said they played games at least once a week, further highlighting the opportunities marketers can seize across the gaming space.

The study also uncovered insights related to gaming frequency, device preferences, in-game advertising receptivity, and dispelled various demographic misconceptions associated with the gaming community.

Below are key takeaways.

Gaming Frequency
When asked how often they play video games, 39 percent of generation Z, 34 percent of millennials, 39 percent of generation X, 37 percent of boomers, and 31 percent of the silent generation said daily. Moreover, more than two-thirds of respondents play weekly, and only a fifth reported not gaming at all. For brands, this means that their target audience likely includes a large proportion of avid gamers.

Mobile is the most popular device for people to play games, due to the proliferation of free or low-priced applications available. According to the survey, 75 percent of consumers use their phones to play games, followed by video-game consoles (36 percent). Tied for third are tablets (25 percent), and laptops (25 percent), followed by desktops (17 percent).

Metaverse Experiences
The metaverse is a rapidly expanding gaming environment. It provides consumers with immersive virtual ecosystems that enhance the gaming experience. These ecosystems can be equally leveraged by marketers to create more contextualized brand experiences to reach consumers.

According to the study, over 15 percent of consumers have explored metaverse gaming and another 25 percent are interested in doing so in the future. In short, over a third of the U.S. population could be frequenting the metaverse within the next five to 10 years. This gives brands ample time to work with platform developers and virtual reality technology to incorporate brand messages across the metaverse.

Awareness of In-Game Advertising
When asked if they noticed ads during their gaming experiences, 76 percent of consumers said yes, while 40 percent said they see them frequently. Generation X, millennials, and female consumers over indexed for ad awareness, suggesting that there are certain segments that are more open to in-game advertising.

In-game advertisements are also more frequently noticed by mobile and tablet players, compared to gamers who use desktops, laptops, and consoles. This is likely caused by the underlying differences in ad inventory and payment models available for each device. Thus, advertisers looking to launch more robust creative campaigns can look to mobile games, as other devices are often limited to simple banner or display ads.

In-Game Advertising Receptivity
In terms of receptivity, only 19 percent of consumers said they aren't bothered by in game ads with receptivity being higher among men, older adults, and lower income households. Of the 81 percent who are less tolerant, over 44 percent said it's very distracting and or intrusive, highlighting the need for advertisers to adjust their approach. Still, according to the survey one in five consumers reported making a purchase after seeing an in-game ad.

Preferred Formats
To explore consumer perceptions of various sponsorship formats, DISQO asked gamers to rank the acceptability of seven different ad options. The results showed that gamers strongly favored in-game experiences, contest/bonus content that requires ads to access, and ads with embedded functionality. In-game experiences make brands part of the action and keep gamers happily engaged. Bonus content empowers brands to delight dedicated gamers. Lastly, embedded content enables gamers to dive deeper into their gaming ecosystem without disrupting the flow of the action.

Conversely, gamers are less enthused by more disruptive ad formats. The least preferred ad format is forcing ads on gamers every time a game is opened, followed by formats that require more expensive game versions to avoid ads, and ads that can be skipped with in-game currency.

Demographic Miconceptions and Myths
The idea of gaming being a man's world is becoming less relevant. Women are increasingly participating in gaming competitions, streaming platforms, and traffic to gaming websites. The growth in representation can be partially attributed to gaming as a preferred distraction for various segments of women, including busy professionals, exhausted moms, and casual gamers.

DISQO's study also suggest that women may be purchasing — or intending to purchase — more gaming-related items than men. This is because they are either gamers themselves or their making purchases for their kids or partner. With this in mind, marketers should consider the influence women hold on household purchasing decisions when developing their gaming campaigns.

Action Steps

  • Don't disrupt: Focus on enhancing gaming experiences instead of disrupting them. Work with gaming platforms to provide gamers with value in exchange for interacting with your ads, such as unexpected rewards or a means of progression.

  • Pay attention to frequency: Frequent gamers are more likely to notice commercials in the games they play and report making a purchase due to in-game commercials. To this end, advertisers should devote more time and resources to better understanding this audience as they can potentially drive in-game ROI.

  • Unplug your preconceptions about age: Despite the image of gamers skewing younger, a large portion of the community are between 30 and 50 years old. Adults who grew up gaming are also raising children to game and invest their time and money into gaming hardware and software. Armed with this insight, brands need to ensure they create gaming campaigns diverse enough to capture veteran gamers as well as the next generation.

  • Unlock new powers of experimentation: Gamers a no longer a niche cohort of consumers and should be treated as a mainstream segment. To engage this rapidly evolving audience, brands should take advantage of testing approaches allowing for the rapid experimentation of different ad formats, audiences, and gaming platforms. Test taglines, messaging, and imagery and target diverse gaming audiences across these variations to establish the optimal mix.

  • Get in the game now: Early adopters of in-game promotions and sponsorships can capitalize on a relatively uncluttered commercial landscape. Now is the time to secure inventory across the gaming ecosystem. Brands should actively engage gaming platforms and developers to advance in-game advertising opportunities.

Beyond in-game content, brands should look to engage gamers through sponsoring gaming competitions and conventions. Moreover, brands can work with gaming influencers and push for advocacy from users across platforms — like Twitch, Discord, and Reddit — to build new connections with these audiences.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Dominick Fils-Aimé is a manager of editorial and content development at ANA.