Heard at IAB Canada GameFest “Everyone is a Gamer, from Aunt Sally to Grandma Judy” 

IAB Canada’s recent Data Night entitled “GameFest” brought together industry leader Deborah Gurofsky, Vice President of Partnerships at Media Pulse and Sonia Carreno, President of IAB Canada, for a fascinating discussion on in-game advertising. This powerful yet often underestimated channel within the digital advertising landscape offers great potential for brands looking to connect with an engaged audience. But it also comes with its own set of challenges. Here are the key insights shared during this insightful conversation. 

  • A Vibrant and Dynamic Channel – Gaming has caught its stride and has landed on the map of viable reach channels across virtually all demographics. While in-game advertising should be a mainstream consideration, it needs to be considered in nuanced terms. Gaming is multifaceted and rich in genres and contextual possibilities. Moreover, not every brand may be suited for every environment. It’s crucial to assess a brand’s alignment with gaming and its target audience. 
  • The Power of the Gaming Audience – Statistics underscore the popularity of gaming, with 60% of Canadians actively participating in gaming. While research showed that quick service restaurants (QSRs) are a natural fit for the gaming space, there exists a significant demographic often overlooked by advertisers – women aged 35+ who constitute a considerable portion of mobile gamers. 
  • Challenges and Opportunities – Imperfect planning tools can create blind spots for advertisers, leading to the misconception that gamers aren’t suitable target audiences for advertising. This is where advertising agencies specializing in gaming play a pivotal role. They understand the nuances of the gaming landscape and can develop in-game advertising concepts that align with both a brand’s objectives and gamers’ expectations. Furthermore, game publishers are deeply invested in brand safety, ensuring ads are contextually appropriate with the game just as publishers would across other areas of digital media. A study by IAB also highlights that 86% of Advertisers agree that in-Game Advertising is Brand safe, and 40% plan to increase spending on game advertising in the coming year. 
  • Strategy & Activation is Everything – Unlike traditional digital channels such as video and social media, gaming requires a tailored approach. Successful in-game advertising campaigns require integration and customization. Generic advertisements won’t resonate with gamers as they crave experiences that enhance their gameplay and not hinder it. 
  • Engagement is Key – The most successful in-game ad formats include fully integrated game assets and virtual signage. Ads that enhance gameplay are more likely to receive positive feedback. The key is to be additive rather than disruptive. Recognizing that intrusive ads can turn players off, game publishers prioritize delivering non-intrusive positive experiences that resonate with their player base. 

The event also featured a panel of industry experts, including Carlos Guevara (Apex Gaming Network), Carlos Sutter (todoMobile), Deborah Gurofsky (Media Pulse), Pascaline Forget (Initiative) and IAB Canada’s Laura Ferron (moderator), who offered unique perspectives and actionable strategies for brands and agencies seeking to capitalize on the power of in-game advertising: 

  • Know Your Audience – Understanding the demographics, preferences, and behaviors of gamers within a specific game or genre is essential. This knowledge will inform the creative approach and ensure ads resonate with the intended audience. 
  • Test and Learn – Many brands are understandably risk-averse when venturing into new territory. Encouraging brands to start with smaller test campaigns focused on proving results can help build confidence and unlock larger investments in gaming advertising. 
  • Gaming Expertise Matters – Partnering with media agencies that possess a deep understanding of the gaming landscape is critical to a successful campaign. These specialists guide brands towards the most effective gaming platforms and formats. 
  • Growing Receptivity – While it may take time to fully shift perception, more advertisers are beginning to recognize the value of in-game advertising. Building a strong track record of successful campaigns will accelerate this process. 
  • Challenges and Solutions: Although audience targeting within gaming still has limitations, primarily regarding reliable age and gender data, progress is being made. Agencies and publishers are developing new ways to categorize gamers, such as bucketing audiences and also including their preferred game genres (sports, RPG, simulation, etc.) 
  • Innovative Opportunities – There are still gaps that inhibit an explosive growth to In-Game Advertising, and the panel shared some ideas where innovation can drive this segment forward: 
    • Cloud Gaming: Capitalizing on loading screens in cloud-based games presents an engaging way to reach players during natural pauses in gameplay. 
    • Competitive Game Lobbies: Lobbies in competitive multiplayer games (e.g., Fortnite, Call of Duty, Valorant) offer moments of less intense focus where players may be more receptive to advertising messages. 

The Take-away 

The gaming industry offers a distinctive chance for advertisers to connect with a vast and engaged audience. By approaching gaming as its own unique ecosystem and prioritizing integrated, enriching experiences, brands can unlock the immense potential of in-game advertising.