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Knowledge | Brands Marketing

In-game advertising - how to promote your brands in games?

8 min read
Kamil Odolczyk

With booming revenues, record streaming audience, and all-time high user engagement, gaming is no longer a niche. The opportunities this medium brings could not be missed by any forward-thinking brand- finally, the objective of in-game advertising is to drive sales. So let’s take a look at the landscape of in-game advertising and ways for brands to promote in gaming.

Mobile in-game advertisement during pauses

advergames

Those in-game ads can be most commonly seen in free-to-play mobile titles within the game’s ‘pause’ menu or when a player switches between levels of the game. Some may be simple pop-ups that users may skip after a few seconds, others can be integrated with the gameplay itself, encouraging players to watch advertisement spots to gain additional in-game bonuses (in-game currency, loot boxes, cards, etc). To put it bluntly - it’s a regular Internet banner ad with some extra steps thrown in. They usually are not very engaging and they are hardly related to ‘gaming’.

Custom made ‘advergames’

advergames

Advergames by definition are branded games developed from the ground up to be a form of advertising. While these may be a quite fun addition to the campaigns, they require lots of resources to create. Especially if the goal is the development of a game that gamers would actually enjoy playing. These usually short and simple games are more of an interactive gimmick rather than a full, independent gaming product.

When done right though, these games present an interesting way of in-game advertising and brand promotion. Unfortunately, there is not much room for customising or adjusting the campaigns once the product is out. After all, you are building a game around a single brand, and re-branding it may not be possible later on.

Branded games very rarely 'go viral' and become Internet sensations, so their effectiveness measured against efforts put into creating them might not be feasible. That said - if done right - games of such type may sometimes become a viral success which elevates a brand to the peak of interest. A great example here may be the KFC's dating simulator "I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger-Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator"

Native advertising via PC and video games advertisement

A new and interesting trend to keep eye on. Native advertising is the form of product and service advertisement that aims to look, integrate and blend organically with real content. This form of advertising in video and pc games involves placing your brand banner, logo, or product itself within an actual, fully released game. While it is possible to do it both online and offline games, both have some drawbacks.

Advertising in offline games

native in video games advertisement
Image credit: Polygon

The most common form of this in video game advertising type is plain, run-of-the-mill product placement. We're talking Coca-Cola cans visible in-game or Subway sandwiches eaten by game characters. In extreme cases, it might be possible to include fully branded DLC’s or additional content packs, just like The Sims 4 Moschino Pack.

The problem here is quite obvious - the products just have to match the game world or else it has an opposite impact on the player, breaking game immersion and disrupting the player’s enjoyment.

Additionally, since the game is played offline, it's very hard to measure the effectiveness of this in-game advertising and as such should be considered when the goal is building the brand image, rather than engaging the audience.

Advertising in online games

In general, there are two approaches to online games. The first one involves running big events in video games as commercials, the second involves what we may call a ‘quasi-programmatic’ approach.

Big, in-game branded events as advertising for companies

companies are in-game advertising via branded events

These are usually massive events in popular online games, that offer players customised cosmetics or introduce new game modes and game mechanics. It is not a surprise that events like these are expensive and time-consuming to carry on. The preparation scale of these events is enormous. From agreements with game publishers, through design, modelling, coding and testing. These take months to prepare and are not easily available to any brand - in this case of video game ads, advertisers are not dealing with in-game advertising companies, but with game development companies themselves.

Just like offline in-game advertisement campaigns, these events may be considered when the campaign goal is brand-building. On the plus side, since these events are held online, it is far easier to measure PR reach and enjoyment of the players than offline ads.

Example: Star Wars trailer premiere in Fortnite, Fortnite season 4 dedicated to Marvel Avengers.

Quasi-programmatic in-game advertising

It's a fresh and interesting form of advertising in video games. The basic idea sounds simple: put the advertisements on in-game billboards or building walls. The banners of famous brands may be displayed on the side of the football field in FIFA games or in posters in Second Life virtual malls. To make this happen, direct work between video game developers and advertisers is essential.

Just like in the case of in-game product - placement, placing your brand’s banner in-game is tricky to implement since the banner has to fit in the game world. Try to imagine a Coca-Cola billboard on the walls of a castle in the Medieval-like world of The Elder Scrolls (yuck!). It doesn't fit there and you can only imagine how easily it may ruin a player's experience. While the potential for memes is great, it could straight up have the opposite effect than intended.

Another drawback of these ad types is that banners or billboards are either unclickable due to technical limitations or gamers simply wouldn’t want to click them. Let's face it - accidental click on a banner resulting in a browser opening brand website would be very off-putting.

The lack of adjustability of the banners here may also be a huge problem for many brands and in-game advertising companies or agencies. If the ad is implemented in an offline game, changing or adjusting the banner is basically impossible.

Finally, there is a question of the game developer’s reputation. Let’s face it: most people hate ads. Seeing an ad in a game you paid for makes you hate it even more. Gamers expect full, ad-free products if the game is not a free-to-play title. Additional monetisation by the game developer is usually met with heavy backlash.

Live-streaming in-game advertising

As we can see, promoting your brand in an actual game is not something easily done. Lots of aspects have to be considered before following this path and the results might be hard to measure. It’s not a surprise then that only some of the biggest brands follow this path. How then may a brand reach the gaming audience? Live streaming advertising brings an answer here. Brands may work either directly with the streaming platform (YouTube, Twitch, Facebook) or work with individual streamers and influencers.

Twitch/YouTube in-platform advertising

Twitch, Youtube or Facebook advertising is the most similar in-game ads to those we regularly see on TV. You may come across them at the very beginning (pre-roll) or in the middle of the video (mid-roll). YouTube and Twitch ads interrupt the broadcast, to deliver the message, usually in the form of an advertising clip.

These advertisements are arguably one of the least liked ads among Gen Z viewers. The credibility of a streamer, close relationship with a product or brand, and engagement of streamer audience don't play any role here. These ‘classic’ forms seem to be the least adapted to gaming and most avoided by viewers.

Influencer campaigns and direct partnerships with the streamer

in-game advertising via direct partnerships with streamers

This is your regular, bread-and-butter influencer campaign, where the streamer is the brand ambassador. This is a kind of dynamic in-game advertising, as, during these campaigns, streamers display the sponsor's banner and advertise them on the stream. Setting up these campaigns is time-consuming as it requires a lot of work for each individual streamer, and they are very difficult to measure. Scouting for the right streamers, negotiating agreements, display settings, and campaign settlement take time and money.

Automated micro-sponsorships as an effective in-game advertising strategy

The drawbacks of influencer campaigns may be avoided, by automating processes of sponsorship deals and focusing on smaller streamers. With inSTREAMLY, an in-game advertising company that connects brands to streamers, brands have a way to reach hundreds of streamers simultaneously. Instead of engaging in an expensive hunt for big streamers, they may work with smaller channels with a very engaged community. While the biggest brands will still be able to cooperate with streaming stars as their ambassadors, with inSTREAMLY a whole new world of possibilities opens up for collaborations between brands and small and micro-streamers. The streamer displays creative artworks as dynamic in-game advertising and the audience also interacts with the campaign via chat messages.

Not only gaming

While current live-streaming is associated with gaming, we may already witness the rise of entirely new segments. Live-streaming advertising is more than in-game advertising. Every week categories like cooking, beauty, arts & crafts gain more and more viewers and channels. This shift is on par with the revolution VOD brought to cable TV. In almost every prediction, the rise of non-gaming categories is mentioned as one of the most worth looking for trends in live-streaming.

The modern streaming scene is shifting from a platform- to a streamer-centred environment. As a highly engaging form of entertainment, streaming is all about a community between viewers and streamers. Brands wanting to achieve success and get ahead of the competition have to be viewed as supporters of streamer passion. Connection with the community, attractive content, and understanding the Gen Z audience - these are the keys to reaching viewers at a more engaging level than ever before.

So, if you are interested in connecting your brand with Generation Z, in-game advertising via micro-sponsorships in live-streams is for you. inSTREAMLY streamlines and automates the work with streamers while creating engaging, high-performing campaigns and keeping track of all important metrics. Interested? Contact us and let’s create something amazing together!

Start using inSTREAMLY today. Work with new streamers, reach new audiences and enjoy superior campaign performance.

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Piotr Stanek
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Szymon Kubiak
Chief Growth Officer

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