Get in the Game: How to Boost Engagement for Your Video Ads

As a marketer, you want everyone to see and interact with your video ads. But as a consumer, you can attest to the fact that you’re not always up for watching one. Maybe you’re trying to get information and don’t have time for an interruption. Perhaps you’re in a hurry and resent the ad you’re seeing for taking up your valuable time.

That’s not always the case, but we have no way of knowing the conditions in which our ads are consumed. Until we do, the best we can do is to ensure that our ads have the best possible odds of being seen and even appreciated. I have found that the best way to do this is via in-game advertising.

A huge captive, engaged audience

The video game industry posted revenues of $36 billion in revenues in the U.S. last year — roughly the same number that the movie industry posted worldwide. Globally, the video game industry hit an estimated $91 billion in revenues in 2016. Some 42 percent of Americans play video games for three hours or more per week. Some 191 million people watch other people play video games — aka esports competitions — every month.

This huge audience is also highly engaged because unlike TV, video games are a “lean in” experience. While you may be half-watching a TV show, if you’re really playing a game, then you’re watching the entire screen — closely. That’s a great environment in which to show an ad. No wonder some 33 percent of all mobile publishing revenues come from video games.

A better deal for consumers

Focused attention is one reason why in-game ads work so well. The other relates the implicit deal that consumers make with advertisers. In the days of broadcast TV, consumers understood that they were getting free content in exchange for sitting through ads. (Visitors to Facebook and YouTube take part in a variation on this deal.) Later, consumers paid for cable to get an ad-free viewing experience. But then ads crept onto basic cable as well. These days, about 11 percent of the global Internet population uses ad blockers.

While you could argue that publishers need revenues and that requires ads, the industry has shown little restraint, colonizing our smartphones with annoying pop-ups with useless X’s that are supposed to close the ads out, but never work.

By contrast, in-game ads are based on a fair, incentivized premise: If you want to play this game or continue to play or collect in-game rewards, then you need to watch an ad. Often, consumers have the option of buying an ad-free version of the game. Either way, the game publishers acknowledge that a consumer’s attention is a viable commodity that carries value.

A recent IAB study found that 81 percent of gamers prefer in-game reward advertising — ads that unlock additional content. Mobile video game ads also take up 100 percent of the screen and boast completion rates of 75 percent, according to IAB data.

Research shows that consumers appreciate this consideration. A recent IAB study found that 81 percent of gamers prefer in-game reward advertising — ads that unlock additional content. Mobile video game ads also take up 100 percent of the screen and boast completion rates of 75 percent, according to IAB data. That’s about triple the rates for Facebook video, according to eMarketer.

In my experience, video game ads have 2-3X the engagement of standard video ads. This makes intuitive sense since players are not only paying close attention to what’s onscreen, but they’re also highly attuned to what’s onscreen as well. Making the ads contextually relevant (like a car ad in a racing game) heightens this effect.

Offering value for attention

There are many reasons why in-game ads work, but the main one is that it recognizes that consumers’ time is valuable. They can decide themselves just how valuable by opting to pay for an ad-free experience or agreeing to see an ad message. I find that when they do the latter, they are open and even grateful to support their favorite game publisher. Unlike placements elsewhere that are often seen as intrusive or annoying, in-game ads are suited for the attention economy of 2018.

James G. Brooks

Founder & CEO at GlassView
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