Industry Trends

Successful in-game advertising is an artform

August 26, 2021

Tobias Knutsson, Adverty’s CEO, encourages advertisers to break out their paintbrushes and charcoal as he explores how to master the art form of in-game advertising

Advertising to gamers is a lot like parenting a typical teenager. Tread carefully, gain their trust, be adaptable to their ever-changing expectations, and do everything you possibly can not to annoy them. In essence, go in sensitively and know that a successful relationship depends on allowing them to call the shots, because while that might not be how other successful relationships work, this is a crucial phase that might dictate their relationship with you for many years. 

The same is very true of gaming. While there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ gamer when it comes to age, gender or demographic, the mindset of today’s gamer remains consistent. Deeply focused, emotionally involved, truly immersed – these are people for whom gaming is an escape from everyday life, a way to connect with friends, an outlet not dissimilar to social media in its ability to present an external version of yourself to the world and engage with like-minded people. 

Gamers are serious about their passion, and advertisers must take their role in these people’s lives seriously as a result. Gaming is about worlds, and brands who run roughshod will not be welcome inside or outside that world. Conversely, those who respect the boundaries, who behave considerately and play by the rules of engagement that predate us all, will be rewarded with the loyalty and mutual respect for which gamers are renowned.

Do not be intrusive

You will struggle to find a more immersive and interactive environment than gaming, and the quantity of affordable and accessible games on offer today ensures it will remain completely inclusive – all of which makes it the perfect environment for any manner of brand campaigns. However, as an advertiser, you are a guest in the gaming space. You are not why the players are there and if you behave badly it will backfire on you. 

With ad blockers still popular among some gamers, it is crucial that advertisers – particularly those new to the discipline – go cautiously. Brands must add value, they must contextualise their ads, and they must above all else not interrupt play. In-menu ads, for example, are growing in popularity for their ability to offer a direct response while the game is naturally paused. Marketers would do well to seek expert counsel before embarking on in-game advertising to establish how their messaging would best work.

Blending in well is better than standing out badly

As with all successful advertising, the environment is key. Last year we worked with OMD Sweden to promote Activision’s latest Call of Duty game, ‘Black Ops Cold War’. 

It may seem obvious to promote a game within another game, but it still required a careful strategy. The campaign delivered contextually appropriate content to a highly targeted audience in a non-intrusive way by placing ads in the natural environment of the game, such as on billboards or bus shelters within a street scene – allowing players to stumble upon them and explore the messaging on their own terms. Meanwhile, these ads were supported by an out-of-home campaign and a building wrap. 

Tap into their interests

The intensity of gaming and the passion with which people play lends itself to powerful messages resonating on a deeper level, if delivered right. Using gaming to deliver a message that has a social purpose can have powerful results. Gaming is inherently sociable – contrary to the stereotype it carries – and clever creative delivered in the right way will spark conversation and could earn a loyal following for the brand. 

Understand the platform to understand the player 

Gaming is a largely untapped media frontier and marketers new to the discipline must learn how best to leverage it within integrated media strategies. We are seeing an increasing number of games developers ramping up the provision of mobile gaming and, with recent studies showing a rapid rise in the number of people playing games on smartphones, this is an interesting space in which brands should consider investing. The mindset is different in smartphone gaming – it is often where people go for more bite-size or light-hearted gaming sessions – so that should also be taken into consideration. 

Each platform will work differently for different brands and each will require a unique advertising strategy. Study the psychology and work with experts who can advise exactly how to use mobile vs console vs PC. Your diligence will be rewarded. 

So there you have it: my key takeaways for effective game advertising. Ultimately the key to making it work for everybody – brand and consumer alike – is to tackle the space sensitively, without detracting from the gameplay or alienating key audiences. To avoid being rejected by the audience, and suffering the full force of their annoyance, brand marketers must first ensure they fully understand what they are getting into. For if it is approached right, the results will speak for themselves.

By Tobias Knutsson, CEO


Adverty empowers stunning mobile, augmented and immersive virtual experiences for brands to connect with consumers.

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