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The US mobile gaming user base is large and growing. In 2015, for the first time ever, over half of the US population will be mobile phone gamers, eMarketer estimates. However, ad spending is not particularly robust. That may change as advertisers become more comfortable with mobile in general and with some of the special features mobile games offer creative marketers, according to a new eMarketer report, “Mobile Games: A Large Audience, but Limited Ad Spending (So Far).”
But the sheer size of the mobile gaming audience should make it attractive to advertisers, argued Julie Shumaker, vice president of ad sales at game publisher Zynga. “I can leverage a program for Coca-Cola today that reaches 28 million unique users in the US through one title. In console, one publisher couldn’t reach 28 million users in a day, let alone a month.”
In addition, Shumaker said, the mobile gaming audience is diverse and broad—more akin to a TV audience.
However, there are differences. “Brands like to look at metrics like time spent and impressions as measurement of whether or not a branding campaign has been effective, but if you think about it applied to mobile, the amount of time spent with a brand might be more [associated with] how potentially annoyed a user is with that brand,” said Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip.
As a defense against that “annoyance factor,” a number of advertisers have invested in rewards-based advertising—giving the audience a tool or a free pass to move up a level within a game in return for viewing an ad.
“If a brand comes in and interrupts [a game] in any way, the first thing [the user does] is look for the X button to close the ad,” said Ari Brandt, co-founder and CEO of MediaBrix. “However, you could be playing a game and you’re stuck, and then you get a message that looks native to the game and it says, ‘It looks like you could use some help. Coca-Cola wants to help you. Click here and Coca-Cola will give you a boost to help you clear the level.’ The user not only appreciates that you’ve acknowledged their state of mind, but beyond that you’re coming in and offering to help.”
Another game-specific opportunity for marketers is brand integration. Game publishers like Zynga and CrowdStar work with brands to integrate their products within mobile games. For example, CrowdStar’s Covet Fashion game lets users style, shop and win virtual clothing and accessories from more than 150 brands. In addition to styling a look, users can also purchase the actual clothing and accessories featured in the game using the app.
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