How marketers are investing in games: IAB PlayFronts

IAB releases new study and guidelines at its third annual advertising and technology event as 40% of gaming advertisers intend to increase budgets.

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IAB's Zoe Soon at PlayFronts
Zoe Soon, IAB’s vice president, Experience Center, delivers measured optimism at IAB PlayFronts in New York. Image: IAB.

The gaming industry saw a lot of disruption over the last year, including the consolidation of major publishers, layoffs and canceled game releases. On the ad side, however, marketing budgets for gaming are growing. As a result, the tone at the third annual IAB PlayFronts this week was measured but optimistic.

“We’re seeing a maturation of the space,” said IAB’s vice president, Experience Center, Zoe Soon, in her keynote address. “We’re seeing how gaming can deliver incremental audiences and amplify outcomes across the entire consumer journey.”

At the event in New York, which brings together publishers, adtech partners and media buyers, IAB released a new study showing increasing marketer interest in the space and providing pointers on how to engage gamers better. Updated creative guidelines were also provided to help marketers learn, and help promote, the rules of the gamers’ road.

Why we care. While gamers are a ubiquitous multitude, they are not a demographic monolith. The video game industry has known this for years, but some brands are still learning how to connect with these very engaged consumers.

Strength in numbers. Some 86% of marketers already invested in gaming say it’s of growing importance in their organization, according to “Changing the Game: How Games Advertising Powers Performance.” The study, by IAB and media consultant Advertiser Perceptions, surveyed 300 U.S. marketers.

Forty percent of current game advertisers plan to increase spending in 2024.

The study also points to eMarketer’s projection that U.S. gaming spend will swell from $8.5 billion in 2024 to $11.5 billion by 2027. There are 213 million consumers in the U.S. who identify as gamers, according to Entertainment Software America (ESA).

Budgets. A third of current gaming advertisers have carved their spend out of their general media budget. Over half have budgets committed to specific games or devices.

PlayFronts Budgets
Image: IAB.

Brand safety. Gaming advertisers are overwhelmingly confident in brand safety. Nearly 90% agree that advertising in games is brand safe. They consider it the second-safest digital channel, just behind CTV, and safer than social media, digital audio and digital display.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to general-audience games like Candy Crush. Many advertisers are also confident in their investment in games for mature audiences, as well as advertising around user-generated content in the gaming ecosphere.

PlayFronts Ads Next To
Image: IAB.

Understanding gamers. With marketers shifting budgets to gaming, they want to know more about how to reach the audience.

“Recent layoffs [at publishers] have dampened some spirits, but how the story has evolved is promising,” Soon told MarTech at the PlayFronts kickoff. “This year it’s taken as a given that everybody knows the size of the gaming market, so we’re looking at who the audience is, to tell their story.”

Dig deeper: Manifesto for the makers of the metaverse

Converting customers. Because many gamers are highly invested in and passionate about their favorite games, marketers who engage gamers see results across the consumer journey.

For building awareness, 32% of marketers rated gaming ad performance as “excellent,” with another 46% rating it as good. This placed gaming in third place, slightly behind social media and digital display.

However, for converting sales, advertisers ranked gaming second, behind social media. Two-thirds (66%) of marketers found ad performance for purchases in games either good (42%) or excellent (24%).

Metrics. Here are the metrics that gaming advertisers are tracking, according to the IAB study.

PlayFronts Metrics
Image: IAB.

Guidelines. This week, IAB also releases “Creative Guidelines and Best Practices in Advertising in Gaming,” a collaboration between IAB and IAB Tech Lab.

The report aims to establish standards and recommendations for ad types across mobile, PC and web-based games that are effective for advertisers while preserving the game experience for gamers.


About the author

Chris Wood
Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country's first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on "innovation theater" at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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