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17 July 2013

Can’t afford not to play


The statistics don’t lie: gaming sites really do produce better return on investment for online advertisers. A recent report by MediaBrix, an ad network for mobile and social gaming, shows that video ads associated with gaming sites generate an average Click Through Rate (CTR) of 3%, which is roughly 30 times higher than the CTR of standard online advertising campaigns (0.10%), Facebook ads (0.03% to 0.11%) and rich media banner ads (0.12%).

Having a background in publishing, where we would see an online campaign as having been really successful if we were coming in at 0.5-1% above benchmark, these figures seem even more impressive. So why are gaming sites so effective and why should advertisers be looking to incorporate them into their advertising strategies?

Essentially, gaming sites are producing better engagement rates with online advertising than other entertainment sites because the audiences are both more engaged and they are spending more time onsite.

Across our platforms we’re seeing an average session time of around 30 – 40 minutes, with some regions even as high as 50 minutes. Compare this with the average news site where around 80% of visitors are on site for less than five minutes, or even YouTube, which claims an average visit time of around 15-16 minutes, and it’s clear why gaming sites have the edge. The old advertising adage of needing to be where your consumers are spending their time has never been more appropriate. And before you suggest that gaming sites have a small, niche audience, Spil Games has around 180 million monthly active users and is well represented across the majority of demographic groups.

Importantly, not only do gaming sites offer big audiences, visitors are also in a more positive frame of mind than those visiting news sites or most other types of entertainment sites. The main reasons people use gaming sites include entertaining themselves, relaxing, unwinding and looking to get away from things; and because this means they are in a more relaxed frame of mind they are also more responsive to advertising.

Furthermore, they often have a strong sense of loyalty to individual games or individual sites and, almost more importantly, they also understand the trade-off advertising offers them, i.e. in order to keep being able to play their game for free, they need to sit through a video. This means that they are often happy to spend time with a brand and look at advertising and interact with it. This is reflected in the above average CTR and view-through stats.

This loyalty can be crucial for brands, as advertisers need repetition – it’s not enough for the user to see an ad, they need to keep seeing it for the brand to really get the message across. Thanks to the loyalty of gaming audiences, gaming sites have a much higher repeat value than most other types of entertainment and news sites – gamers will regularly come back to the same page. The same certainly can’t be said about news articles.

With most advertisers seeing view through rates as very important, one decision we made that we don’t regret is deciding to not allow ad skipping across the Spil Games platforms. We ran a number of A/B tests with ad skipping and while, obviously if it’s there some people are going to use it, we found that the drop off was nowhere near as high as we might have expected. And the fact that we’re still producing high CTRs means that people aren’t just moving the browser aside and doing something else while their game loads, instead they are actually actively engaging with the advertising.

Of course, some people will always try to avoid advertising, and this will happen anywhere; for example, people go off to get a coffee during the ad breaks on TV or they turn the sound down. For that reason, it’s the job of the creative to capture people’s attention and engage with them. The difficulty for most brands is that they need to resist the urge to simply offer a cut-down version of their TV ads for the internet. For online advertising to be effective there needs to be more opportunities for interaction and they need to offer a much shorter timespan for the ad (up to around 10-15 seconds).

Finally, gaming offers advertisers a low-risk, brand-safe environment. Advertisers don’t need to worry that their ads will be placed next to content that is either bad for the brand to be associated with or in a forum or place where people are likely to be discussing that brand in a negative light.

The combination of these factors creates a powerful proposition for brands looking to engage and target their audiences online, and one that is going to become increasingly important as online gaming audiences continue to grow.

By Age Sluis, director advertising Europe, Spil Games


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