Video Games As Part Of TV Ad Ecosystem

  • by , Featured Contributor, January 24, 2020

Advertisers desperately need to reach young video viewers, but can’t find them at scale on TV because their screen time (hundreds of millions of hours weekly) is spent playing premium video games.

True, their casual mobile game brethren attract lots of ads, but those ads tend toward low-end, direct-response ads bought programmatically, which means that they don’t monetize well.

On the premium, console-driven side, many carry high-quality, high-value ad -- but since those ads are heavily customized and integrated into the games themselves, it's hard to build the same kind of repeatable scale that other ad-supported media companies can capture.

I believe the video game industry has an enormous opportunity to capture a massive amount of high value advertising, and the answer to its historical challenges is to pivot its ad businesses into the TV ad ecosystem. Simply, video game advertising needs to be less like “mobile app download DR” and more like TV advertising. Here's why:



Gamers much more accepting of ads. It will have to be handled carefully, but with the rise of free-to-play games and the massive growth and acceptance of user payments for free content and cosmetics and faster play, permissioned video ads are likely to find lots of accepting gamers if they are done right: light ad load, tight frequency caps, and content relevant to gamers.

Games looking more and more like TV shows and movies where ads are common. With high definition and computer generation of entertainment, shows and movies are looking more like games, and games are looking more like shows and movies. And, when it comes to sports games, they are converging very fast. Ads won’t stand out nearly as much as folks think they might.

To be more like TV advertising, gaming needs to:

Standardize TV ad units. This means 15-second and 30-second video ads sold on impressions and reach by target.

Provide comparable TV measurement hybridized with digital measures. This means panel-based measurement, with full comparability and integration with TV (Nielsen), enhanced with the capacity to measure well beyond demos, adding digital behaviors, ad server counts, digital attribution, etc.

Sell to TV budgets and buyers. As much as the world talks about holistic video ad buying, the reality is still far away from that. TV buyers buy TV ads. Video game ads should fit into the market and be sold to folks buying TV, potentially integrated and packaged with linear TV ads.

Say no to bad ads. ABC won’t put bad ads on the Oscars. TBS won’t put bad ads in the Final Four. Premium video game publishers should never let the kinds of ads that show up in the causal mobile game world show up in their high-definition games played on big screens for hours at a time.

Say no to programmatic selling, and yes to scarcity-based premium pricing. Programmatic came into digital because supply exceeds demand there. Video game audiences are massive, but ads on those games should be managed to scarcity and sold as if they were ads on top TV shows.

Will the video game industry pivot its ad business into the TV ad ecosystem? Just watch out -- because if this happens, the result will be very, very big. What do you think?
6 comments about "Video Games As Part Of TV Ad Ecosystem".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2020 at 1:38 p.m.

    Dave, if an advertiser wants to reach young adults as a super primary target with TV---this is fairly rare---- there are plenty of avenues a savvy agency can explore without going the videogame route. Aside from measurement and commercial placement issues, videogames will scare off many advertisers due to their generally violent content. If they try to switch mainly to "softer" presenataions the videogamers will lose many of their users. I'm not saying that no advertiser should use videogames but this form of entertainment is a far better fit for those who have little or no concerns about being placed in potentially objectionable content.

  2. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, January 24, 2020 at 4:43 p.m.

    Ed, you and I definitely disagree on this one. There are many advertiers that need to reach young mailes at scale and in concentration - pizza, fast food, energy drinks, auto, trucks, sporting goods, consumer electronics - and every one that I talk to bemoans the lack of available media channels to do it cost effectively. And certainly none with sight, sound and motion high impact ads. Yes. Some games have violent content, but then so do so many of the shows that advertisers are happy to support in cable programming and in AVOD movies and shows. Also, many, many games to not have that kind of violence - the sports themed titles for instance. I think that this will happen in a big way, and soon, and advertisers will be leading the way.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2020 at 5 p.m.

    Dave, an advertiser who thinks that there is almost no way to reach young males is probably thinking that there few TV shows that compositionally attract mostly or almost totally young male audiences---and this is correct. So if young males are the only target---which is rarely the case---then maybe videogames are one of the few options available---assuming that you have no problem with their content as well as the other issues you noted. However, if it's merely a question of trying to get more GRP weight in a TV time buy that uses the outmoded audience guarantee metric of men aged 18-49 but  really would like to tailor its GRP fall so that within the 18-49 group, younger males get a certain number of GRPs, this is a simple matter as there are enough TV shows to make this adjustment---providing the brand is not forced into a "corporate" buy and is allowed to make its own buying decisions.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, January 24, 2020 at 5:14 p.m.

    Ed, it is super hard to get young males in concetration on TV, and I'm the one that's usually accsed of being the fanboy for TV. It costs $90-100+ eCPM for M 18-24 in a highly optimized, data-driven campaign across the top 100 national cable nets. And reach is at a massive premium. That is why so few networks wil guarantee anything close to that these days, even though advertisers will pay massive premiums for them. I don't agree that it is smily about adjusting the shows to blalane the M 18-49 for a yuonger scew. On AVOD, in premium, full episode player delivery, that target costs $130 CPM.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 24, 2020 at 6:20 p.m.

    Dave, we agree on the point about very few---if any---TV shows which reach an audience mostly of males 18-24 and/or male teens. If those are the only targets an advertiser has I would assume that certain digital media and radio buys would be better in term of audience composition as well as videogames. However most male-oriented advertisers would likely place some sort of relative GRP weight among a number of male age groups, not focus only on one segment. For example, if you were planning 100 male GRPs per week, you might want--under ideal circumstances---140 GRPs among the 18-24 but only 65 among those aged 35-49. A typical TV buy which is based only on 18-49 would probably reverse those indices. I maintain, however, that were the buyers tasked with specific GRP goals by age, not just the overall 18-49 goal which is the basis of their audience guarantees with the sellers, they would come considerably closer to the desired GRP weighting---though probably not hitting it exactly. I also wonder about the wisdom of locking into a buy which is so heavily concentrated against a single group---in this case male teens and 18-24s. The going assumption is that such people are much less tolerant of excess frequency than older consumers. If that is so, the videogame advertiser might run into an ad wearout problem if too many "exposures" were laid in via a single media venue.

  6. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA) replied, January 27, 2020 at 10:21 a.m.

    Exactly my point. It can't (and logically SHOULD) not be too hard to create something to assess the truthfulness of political ads, if they have the same in place already for "regular" advertisers. And I agree that it can't be just FB alone. I single them out, because of all the online platforms they seem to not want to truly address the issue.

    BTW, it is also telling in today's political climate that apparently we need to test political ads from candidates on truthfulness. Again, that is not something we see as a regularly recurring problem with bonafide advertisers. Apparently, political ads want to play by a different set of rules.

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