Your mom’s a gamer: 5 things we learned at Tremor Video’s Gaming Summit

You know this guy. The scruffy, male, Mountain Dew-powered ne’re-do-well playing Halo from dawn (okay, noon) ‘til dusk. But what if you didn’t know this guy. Maybe he’s not in a basement. Maybe he’s not even a guy. And maybe he (or she) is sitting on a six-figure salary playing Candy Crush on his way to a job in the Financial District.

The gamers we once knew have evolved. Gaming is now a mainstream leisure activity. According to a new study by Tremor Video entitled “Game On—How the Mobile Gaming Mindset Impacts Ad Effectiveness,” 74 percent of men and 56 percent of women call themselves gamers. And chances are that even among the remainder there’s a mobile game or two tucked away on their phones. To find their results, the Lieberman Research Worldwide’s Pragmatic Brain Science research team, ran a CPG ad during a highly rated TV show and in a popular mobile game app, then compared the emotional mindset of each group after they were exposed to the ad.

But there’s still a wide gap between perceptions and reality.  Last week in Los Angeles, Tremor Video brought together executives from Maxus Global, Zynga, ABC, Lionsgate and more to explore gaming’s place in creativity and culture, and advertising’s place within games.

Here are the top 5 takeaways from Tremor Video’s LA Focus Summit, “Gaming is the next TV.”

Games are the next TV, not the new TV.

“Since the beginning of the internet every corner of digital has proclaimed itself to be the new TV—the implication being that we are going to take the dollars from that dinosaur,” said moderator Matt Rosenberg. But the gaming industry is not out to slay TV.

Instead, gaming companies want to educate the advertising industry and overcome the prejudices holding back their ad budgets. After all, the two mediums have a lot in common: hybrid subscription- and advertising-based revenue models, large production budgets and engaged fandoms.

“Everybody watches TV and everybody plays mobile games,” Rosenberg said. “There is one big difference: television has been the gold standard for advertising going on 70 years, while games have been seen as direct response advertising.”


Gamers feel more deeply than TV watchers, and they’re more open to ads.

The research, released by Tremor at the summit, reveals that gamers are particularly receptive to brand advertising. During game play, because users lean way in, participants reported a more heightened emotional and attentive state of mind than TV viewers, who reported feeling more relaxed. (You can read the full report here.)

It’s this level of engagement that often deters advertisers. “When you’re leaning in that far and you get interrupted it feels different,” said Todd Steinman, managing partner and digital lead at Maxus Global.

But research revealed that gamers were more likely to recall the positive attributes of a brand than TV viewers. Even participants who initially said they found in-game ads annoying were just as likely to find the brand “innovative,” “fun” or “authentic,” as those who were open to ads from the start. There was little difference between the effectiveness of an ad the mobile game environment than an ad on TV, the study concluded.

Gamers aren’t who you think they are.

What’s more, those gamers are a far more diverse group than many advertisers imagine. Game play extends across gender, income, age and racial demographics. Like television, some titles cast a wide net, while others are very niche.

For example, the audience profile for World of Tanks—a cult MMO (massively multiplayer online) game dedicated to armored machines—draws older, male history buffs. eSports, on the other hand, draws a global audience. “The fan is actually more like your traditional sports fan,” said Yvette Martinez, COO of ESL Gaming America. “They’re buying t-shirts and VIP packages. They’re bringing along their girlfriends and parents. There’s a bigger age diversity than you might think.” Girlfriends and wives in particular respond to eSports big tent, Martinez said, often becoming players and fans themselves.

Media buyers are still skeptical, but advertisers are willing to power up.

When it comes to buying in-game media, buyers are still overcoming concerns about brand safety, audience quality and scale, said summit panelists.

“For general branding, it’s hard to take that leap of faith,” said Ben Blatt, executive director, digital strategy at ABC television. Violent video games may not be suitable for large advertisers, some say, while others are hung up on the myth of the slack-jawed gamer.

Still, others are skeptical of metrics they’re used to trusting on the open web. Completed video views, one of gaming’s strongest KPIs, are suspect. “It really goes back to that subjective thought of whether someone is pushing their way through that ad,” to get to the next thing, said Maxus’ Steinman.

This despite the fact that Tremor research reveals 80 percent of game players are open to rewarded ads. “As a gamer, I don’t want to spend money. I look at the video as a gift that the advertiser is giving to me,” said Marian Thomas, head of ad solutions at Zynga. “That’s a positive association with the brand.”

For best results, the ad should fit the game.

Knowing that advertisers hesitate to interrupt game play, developers should be considering what kind of ad experience best fits within the world they’re building, panelists said. Words with Friends provides a natural place for 15-second spots while players wait for their turn. Fiction-based narratives are also a fit for interruptive ads if they follow TV’s script: set up the ad by ending on a cliffhanger.

“There needs to be some kind of ad monetization strategy during the green light process,” said Gabrielle Heyman, head of global ad sales at Zynga. “There’s been many times where we wanted ads in the game and the game people say no. They come back to us 6 months later, but by then the game is made.”

Custom integrations can be done–Farmville created a Doritos integration that allowed players to plant the chips and nurture them into a plate of nachos–but the lead time is often too long for many advertisers. For those trying to repurpose multi platform ads for games, lead times can be particularly prohibitive. “12, 14, 20 weeks?” said Blatt. “That’s not possible.”

Moving Forward

We’re building toward a tipping point for the gaming industry. Day-to-day, mobile and console games are becoming a part of the lives of many consumers. And while the gaming industry still has a lot work to do in fighting the myths surrounding in-game advertising, educating media buyers and advertisers is only half the battle. As game developers move forward they too have to start thinking about how to make money from their art. The first step is making sure that advertising is baked in from the beginning.

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