Will Dorling, UK director of brand sales at AdColony, explains why mobile gamers are exactly the people that advertisers should be targeting
I’ve said before – and I’ll say it again! – mobile gaming is the #1 media channel all advertisers, from Fortune 500 brands to direct-response/performance marketers, should be investing in. The argument is clear: Consumers are spending more and more time on their smartphones, and specifically, playing mobile games. And when they are playing those games, they are highly engaged, and open and receptive to your ad messaging. Ads in mobile games work.
But still, there is pushback! We hear it every day. ‘My customer isn’t a mobile gamer’. ‘Aren’t mobile games for kids?’ And of course: ‘We want to target working professionals, with disposable income – not consumers with no money to spend on our product’. Rather than try to convince marketers with my opinion, my response is simple: Look at the data. It tells a very different story about ‘who’ a mobile gamer really is, and why they are exactly who you should be going after.
About one-third (35 per cent) of mobile gamers are young, in the 16-24 age group. However, another third fall in the 25-34 age group and 22 per cent are between 35 and 44 years old, according to OnDevice research. So, as we can see, the common stereotype of a ‘gamer’ as being a young person who wastes their time playing games all day, with little to no buying power, is simply inaccurate. That stereotype that was borne of the console gamer, and it doesn’t translate over to a realistic profile of a mobile gamer in the UK today, especially in sub-genres like hyper-casual and puzzles, which tend to attract an audience that is the exact opposite of the stereotype.
Mobile gamers are fairly evenly split across genders, and gameplay is equally common to both – 92 per cent of UK men say they play mobile games, as do 91 per cent of women surveyed. What’s interesting about this split is that women have tremendous purchasing power and identify as the primary decision-maker. Gender analysts Catalyst.org estimate that 67 per cent of all UK household consumption is controlled or influenced by women. Moreover, women have the potential to be a highly profitable target audience for brands. They are harder to win over, but once you do so, they tend to be more brand-loyal and are more inclined to offer referrals and recommendations.
So, if you think that mobile gamers aren’t your target audience, you are sorely mistaken. By ignoring this audience, you’re missing an opportunity to reach a potential customer or client that could have significant lifetime value for your brand.
Mobile games might seem like a ‘side activity’, but for many consumers in the UK, it’s a daily habit. About two in three gamers in the UK play every single day, and 26 per cent play multiple times per week. Among those who play every day, they typically play five times or more, and these are not short sessions: Average session time is over five minutes, more than social media (1.8 minutes), messaging (1.7) and even reading/watching the news (3.4 minutes). In fact, just 10 per cent of mobile gamers play for less than 10 minutes a day. We’re seeing mobile gamers playing for 20, 30, 40 minutes each day, and 36 per cent are playing for 40 minutes or more, according to OnDevice Research.
Mobile gaming is something that consumers are doing throughout the day as they do other activities, too. Nine out of 10 mobile gamers say “home” is the primary location they are playing, and as they watch TV (68 per cent), listen to music (38 per cent) and eat their meals (26 per cent). It’s clear that mobile gamers are multi-taskers, but we can also see that gaming is a primary activity. That is, it takes full focus to win a competitive activity, and that’s what gamers want – to succeed. Moreover, the top time slot for gaming is between 8 pm and 11 pm, which perfectly correlates to what TV advertisers consider as ‘prime time’, when viewers are most focused on the content and therefore better absorb and retain advertising messages.
With the rise of ad blockers and the ongoing backlash against advertising, it’s been difficult for brands to identify the right medium to reach their target consumer – in the way that they want. In the world of ‘opt-out’, brands must look for places where consumers choose to ‘opt-in’.
Thanks to ad units available in mobile games like user-initiated video, where the player opts in to watch an ad in exchange for an in-game reward like virtual currency or a level up, mobile gamers are opting in. Some 84 per cent of mobile users prefer watching video ads for extra lives and/or in-game content, overspending money, and there was little difference in this choice among different ages and genders. Not only are users more willing to engage with ads, but they prefer it over other options and voluntarily.
And, as we saw from our own survey, mobile users prefer to see ads in games vs. other types of apps. One in six users prefers to encounter ads in mobile games, compared to just one in 14 on Instagram. Mobile gamers, even those who just play hyper-casual games in short bursts, “are much more receptive to advertising than non-gamers,” according to Newzoo’s 2019 findings.
‘Receptive’ easily translates over to revenue – in a very direct way. One in four mobile gaming users purchased advertised products & services; this is in stark contrast to less than one in eight who purchase on Instagram after seeing an ad there, despite the company’s recent moves to become more of a platform for e-commerce advertising.
Today’s marketers have so many challenges in front of them, but at the core of every brand’s ultimate outcome is reaching their audience. Mobile games are where your audience is because it’s where nearly every brand’s audience is. If you want a fully addressable audience outside of the duopoly, mobile games are where you must look.