Are Mobile Games the Next Big Space for Advertisers?
This year’s Super Bowl featured commercials from three mobile gaming companies, a sign that the industry is going mainstream. So how can marketers leverage the medium as an effective advertising platform?
The presence of mobile games in this year’s Super Bowl ad lineup shows the industry is becoming more established, which presents a big opportunity for advertisers.
Three mobile gaming companies spent massive amounts ($4.5 million for a 30-second spot) to air commercials during the big game: “Clash of Clans” hired Liam Neeson to star its Super Bowl ad; “Game of War: Fire Age” released a Kate Upton-led commercial; and “Heroes Charge,” although without any celebrity endorsement, purchased 15 seconds featuring an animated fight scene.
“The fact that three Super Bowl advertisers were mobile gaming companies is a clear indicator that mobile is becoming the predominant platform for games, that there is a mass audience for mobile games, and that there is big money to be made from mobile games,” says Richard Guest, president of North America at Tribal Worldwide. “Advertisers will pay more and more attention to the mobile gaming space because of the mass audience and because consumers’ appetite for new mobile games would indicate an opportunity to introduce branded content into the space.”
Super Bowl commercial from “Game of War: Fire Age” featuring model Kate Upton.
Recently, Guest’s agency developed a mobile game called “DXM Labworks” for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) to raise awareness of the negative consequences of dextromethorphan abuse (also known as DXM, an ingredient found in cough syrup) among 14- to 19-year-olds.
“Because the ‘DXM Labworks’ campaign was intended to both change an existing behavior and educate teens about the social consequences associated with cough syrup abuse, mobile gaming was an intriguing tactic to explore. It’s also proving to be an extremely effective channel,” he explains.
But mobile gaming is no longer just popular among teenagers. It has grown across different age and gender groups, according to Tuong Nguyen, principal analyst on the Consumer Technology and Markets Research group at research company Gartner.
“[Mobile] gaming isn’t just limited only to a sub-segment of younger, males anymore. It’s expanded to women, older demographics, parents – just about everyone,” Nguyen says.
But when brands look to incorporate mobile gaming components into their ad campaigns, they must be aware that games are not ads, and they have to make sure their message seamlessly fits into a gaming environment, industry participants suggest.
“Integrating into the context of the game is key,” says Paul Marobella, president of Havas Worldwide Chicago Group, continuing that a brand could align its value with what players achieve in the game.
“As gamers earn rewards through whatever game they are playing, a brand can reward them with brand-related swag – whether it’s Sour Patch Kids offering buy one get one free after an achievement is scored or a theoretical integration where a tire brand like Firestone could be earned as a driving gamer up-levels. Having this level of contextual, demographic, and cultural relevance will prove to be the best way for brands to see results from the world of mobile gaming,” Marobella notes.
And Paul Munkholm, director of strategy at digital agency Kettle, adds that when brands are looking to tap into mobile games, they must make sure that the idea and experience they plan to deliver is something they’re sure their consumers will like.
“Creating a game that breaks through like ‘Clash of Clans’ and ‘Candy Crush’ takes a great amount of time and investment. And these games have raised the bar for users. So if a company were to release a subpar branded gaming experience, it may turn off users,” he says.