Game of Phones: Ruling Brand Engagement in Social and Mobile Games


ADOTAS — In a programmatic world plagued with banner blindness, annoyance, click fraud and viewability issues, in-game advertising is emerging to be the exception to legacy digital ad formats. Not since television have brand messages been as engaging, impactful and visual to consumers. More importantly, as in-game advertising continues to evolve, new technology has been developed to take brands away from intrusive placements and place their advertising so it is additive to the user experience, create personal connections and engage people with positive experiences – something that couldn’t ever be done with television. From Lexus to T-Mobile, we are seeing the largest brands turn to social and mobile gaming as a way to make meaningful connections with their consumers.

If you don’t consider social and mobile gaming as one of the most shattering shifts in media consumption we’ve ever seen, then you’re already behind. According to an eMarketer report released in May, more than half of all US mobile phone users — about 125.9 million people or 40% of the total US population — will play games on their phones this year. Mobile gaming on phones has grown enormously in recent years, and double-digit growth rates will continue into 2015, when half of all US residents are expected to play games via their mobile phone. As audiences are increasingly spending time on social and mobile gaming, it has become one of the most promising opportunities for brands.

The world of social and mobile gaming is different than any other playing field for advertising. There is no other digital medium that stimulates a wide range of emotions multiple times a day across hundred of millions of people. Brands are moving away from one-size-fits-all solutions and instead aligning brand messaging with users’ specific emotions and needs. The best brands have focused on Breakthrough Moments (BTMs) in gaming, or the critical points in a game where people are most receptive to advertising and brands can add value to their experience, including when a player gets a new high-score, achieves a personal best or gets stuck on a level and is in need of help. These are the precise moments that allow brands to speak to a particular emotion or need and add value for the consumer; in return, users appreciate the brand’s message, creating an emotional and memorable connection.

Frontline Plus is a prime recent example of a brand successfully leveraging Breakthrough Moments in gaming. In May, the company ran engaging advertising within BTMs on Pet Rescue Saga, which attracts more than 5 million daily active users on Facebook according to AppData. Frontline Plus became an integral part of game play by rewarding users with daily boosters to help them protect their pet during difficult game levels; a concept aligned with how Frontline Plus products help protect users’ pets in real life. Complimentary product coupons were also offered during congratulatory points in the game to celebrate with users and encourage them to try Frontline Plus, directly impacting their purchase intent.

Progressively, as brands shift to adding value to the user experience and make emotional connections with their advertising, expect to see shifts in what metrics will be of importance. When brands act like partners rather than obstacles for consumers during game play, consumers start to appreciate the company’s participation and develop brand affinity. Research has confirmed that emotional connections and ad likability drive engagement and ultimately lead to a significant lift in purchase intent. Primary campaign metrics like clicks and impressions will soon be replaced by likeability and emotional connections. It’s time to stop thinking about defining campaign success by legacy metrics when the average benchmarks brands experience when they focus on Breakthrough Moments look like this:

  • Purchase intent is 10x higher than normative average when brands produce emotional connections.
  • Ad likability increases by 50% when brands align with players’ emotions.
  • Video ads on mobile gaming see an average CTR of 3%.
  • Average social and mobile gaming engagement rates are around 20%, the highest of reported ad formats.
  • Mobile gaming value exchange ads — where the users receive a reward for viewing the full ad — see an average CTR of 11%.

Compare this to benchmarks supplied by eMarketer, with standard banner ads averaging a CTR of .10% and rich media banner ads garnering an average CTR of .12%. Video ads on mobile gaming have an average CTR 30x higher than standard banner ads and mobile value exchange ads produce a CTR that is over 100x higher than standard banner ad campaigns. It’s clear: Advertising in social and mobile games, when done correctly, can bring brand engagement to a new level.

So long are the days of offer walls, interstitials, pre-roll video and other disruptive and mostly ignored ad formats. At the current state, the digital ecosystem needs to pay attention: social and mobile in-game advertising is ahead of the curve and setting the example by which all should follow. In-game advertising is on the next level, evolved to an environment that can provide brands with additive ad formats, create emotional connections with consumers, and drive results that make all other metrics laughable. Expect to see a closer alignment between brand objectives and user experience as companies increasingly understand how to provide value to their consumers and create emotional connections. Game on.


  1. Great article. Recently I was playing Pet Saga and got the gifts from Frontline and it reminded me to but my annual supply for my two pups. I can’t remember the last time I was thankful for or remembered an ad. Thanks MediaBrix for getting brands on board in a way that’s meaningful to me. <3


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