Game Makers’ Ad Strategy: Less TV, More Cross-Channel Targeting

While game developers continue to spend big on TV ads, they need to recognize that traditional advertising channels are facing new forces of disruption. Most of today’s gamers are juggling multiple devices.

Mobile, video and programmatic advertising are growing rapidly, and marketers are looking to use new channels and technologies to get the most out of each media campaign.

As marketers buy programmatic ads across multiple platforms, advertisers need to reach out and engage with their users across these different channels at every stage of the consumer’s journey.

This is especially true in the mobile gaming market, where gaming apps are bountiful, highly competitive and carry high churn rates.

Mobile gaming is a hotbed for advertisers

The mobile game market is exploding, with hundreds of thousands of new game applications made available each year, and in 2016, they will generate more revenue than console or PC games for the first time ever.

Not surprisingly, the advertising market for video games is also growing at a rapid pace–especially with the rising popularity of new mobile ad formats for native, social media and in-app games.

Yet if you were to ask game-makers in 2015 how they attracted users, the common answer would have been television advertising–and that medium is still a force today. According to, game developers spent an estimated $52.8 million on TV ads in September 2016, almost double the $27.2 million spent just one month prior–the bulk of which was spent by mobile gaming brands.

TV ads are clearly still relevant, but they’re only a small piece of the puzzle.

Traditional TV ads just don’t cut it

While game developers continue to spend big on TV ads, they need to recognize that traditional advertising channels are facing new forces of disruption. Most of today’s gamers are juggling multiple devices. In fact, more than one-half of U.S.-based internet users multitask with smartphones or computers while watching TV.

This mass rerouting of eyeballs should be concerning for game brands spending big money on TV ads. While TV marketers can plan an advertising campaign by analyzing viewer demographics for various channels depending on the program or time of day, there is no way to accurately track engagement or link it to a download or purchase.

Furthermore, people play mobile games everywhere, not just in front of the TV. Buses and trains are swarming with people solving puzzles and quizzes and playing strategy games to pass the time. This seemingly infinite target group is the reason why the gaming industry’s future is looking decidedly rosy.

With the majority of gaming revenue generated from mobile apps, it makes sense to advertise where the audiences are–with the simultaneous ability to track and measure the effectiveness of media campaigns. Through advanced behavioral targeting, game marketers can know where, when and on whom to spend advertising dollars so that they get the most bang for their buck.

So how can marketers put this data to work?

Cross-channel targeting delivers greater game ad penetration

The cross-channel approach allows marketers to seamlessly and interchangeably use multiple channels to market, sell and interact with consumers no matter what device or platform they are using.

With cross-channel targeting, players are shown another game by the same publisher within the game they are currently playing, again when they browse the web and yet again while scrolling social media feeds.

Cross-channel media campaigns can be customized for each user according to their preferences and daily routine, and even adapted in real-time in order to increase the likelihood that the ad is actually being viewed and engaged with. This is why we are seeing such a growing interest in cross-channel from app developers, especially in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific markets where game designers flourish.

Mobile devices also create opportunities for a personal interactive experience, giving rise to the latest trend in mobile advertising–game simulation, or “playable ads.”

TechNavio found that on average, consumers only spend 45 seconds on a TV advertisement, while a gamer would spend 300 seconds on an in-app video game ad.

Through cross-channel targeting, these type of ads are strategically placed to appeal to gamers at the right time and in the right format. These ads are engrossing and often feel like the extension of the game rather than an ad–and most cannot be skipped if the gamer wants to continue playing. This kind of ad experience isn’t possible on television sets.

I know what you’re thinking: If cross-channel is so much more effective, then what’s the holdup? The basic answer is that game marketers often work with a multitude of advertising partners, making a cross-channel approach difficult to implement. To get the most out of ad budgets, they’ll need to trim the ad-tech fat and look to new solutions.

It’s time for game makers to implement a different ad strategy

Mobile gaming may be a multibillion-dollar industry, but that doesn’t mean game marketers can afford to waste ad budgets. To truly leverage user data and insights, game marketers should look for holistic advertising solutions that offer access to both the buyer and seller side of industry, along with the technology to maximize ad spend.

The integration of marketing activities enables advertisers to optimize audience targeting across multiple channels in real-time without the hassle and additional cost of third-party ad-tech partners.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to get mobile gamers, then you damn well better be advertising on mobile. Actively seeking out viewers by shifting ad dollars away from TV campaigns and toward cross-channel targeting throughout the user’s journey will reward game marketers with better audience penetration, greater engagement and higher quality results.

In this new technological era, we need to tune in to our viewers rather than expect them to tune in to scheduled TV programming.

Sagi Niri is chief operating officer and chief financial officer of digital marketing company Matomy Media Group.


Image of mobile gamer courtesy of Shutterstock.