Gaming Upfronts 2021: 5 things we learnt

Posted on Thursday 07 October 2021 | IAB UK

With a Pringle loving zombie, luxury brands galore and a transatlantic Q&A, we recap on the return of Gaming Upfronts

Opening Gaming Upfronts 2021, our CMO James Chandler promised the audience two hours of “ad innovations, new product launches and box-fresh insights” to help brands authentically and effectively immerse themselves into the in-game space. With sessions from Activision Blizzard Media, Adverty, Bidstack, Frameplay and Twitch, here are some of our key takeouts from the day:

1. Be playful

Twitch’s Adam Harris sat down with Pringles’ Elena Mancini and Stephen McSweeney, streaming host Leah Alexandra and special guest Frank the Zombie to discuss how they wrote Frank out of ‘Dead Rising’ and into the IRL Twitch community to share his love of Pringles. As McSweeney put it, “to be authentic to gamers, you have to push innovation as much as possible”, while Alexandra highlighted how important it is to work with brands that will resonate with the Twitch community she has built up. Mancini explained that the campaign was built on the premise that “Pringles is all about bringing people together and gaming is the place where people meet” - and the creative tie-up paid off with 25,000 logging on for the full two-hour launch stream.  

2. Reach the “unreachables”  

Adverty’s Alex Ginn explained that a huge challenge for brands is how to “reach the unreachables”  - the Gen Zs and Millennials that are tech-savvy and “block everything”. Yet when it comes to gaming, the ads are part of the experience and help to build a more realistic in-game world. By keeping it native and respecting gameplay, in-game ads can “add to the relationship that people have with your brand”. To this end, Ginn shared a number of ad products that Adverty are using to create a seamless ad experience, including seamless in-play ads and a seamless in-menu unit, as well as debuting a new launch for 2022 - interactive in-play ads that will allow players to interact with ads and brands to create an extra level of engagement. 

3. Harness self-expression via gaming 

Bidstack’s Lauren Baines was joined by Fnatic’s Edward Gregory and Mindshare’s Dan Daynes to explore how luxury brands are leveraging gaming. Highlighting how gamers are expressing themselves in-game, Gregory said “people see their gaming selves as an extension of themselves 

or a reflection of who they want to be”. He added: “Luxury brands fit well because a lot of gaming and esports is about self-expression - for fashion to exist in that space makes complete sense and it’s an organic fit.” Meanwhile, Daynes said that luxury brands are authentically entering into the gaming environment by extending on the passion points that they have existed in for years - such as aligning with esports via an association with Wimbledon. 

4. Reach x relevance

“How does gaming differ from other digital environments?” asked Frameplay’s Jonathan Troughton, sitting down with Miniclip’s Zach Stadlin-Robbie. According to Stadlin-Robbie, the engagement and accessibility that gaming offers brands are key, allowing advertisers to immerse themselves natively within highly engaged environments at a mass scale. He added: “We’re always looking to create ads that add to users’ experience… making it as real and as relevant as possible [to gamers]”. Another really important factor for brands new to the in-game space is testing, with Troughton and Stadlin-Robbie advising that advertisers not be led by an assumption of what a gaming ad should be: “Remove bias, understand your goal outcome and test.”

5. Get social 

While gaming may once have been seen as a solitary activity (cue stereotype of a teenager sitting in a bedroom with a console), it’s evolved into a social pastime with mobile, PC and console gamers using it as a way to stay connected. This was highlighted by Activision Blizzard Media’s Jonathan Stringfield who shared research into how the pandemic has impacted gaming and overall media consumption. The findings show that the social nature of gaming has fuelled its popularity over the past 18 months “allowing us to be connected and enjoy activities together even when physicality is difficult''. Brands should not only work to understand and respect the social aspect of gaming, but also seek to amplify the positive emotional connection that people feel when gaming socially.

You can watch all of the sessions from Gaming Upfronts here.

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