Brands Experiment With Placing Ads in Console Video Games

As an experiment, some advertisers are placing TV ads in video games with the aim of reaching a younger demographic less likely to watch traditional television. Ad tech firm Simulmedia is running the tests, such as enabling the Turner division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia to run ads promoting Turner properties — the animated “Rick and Morty,” sci-fi series “Snowpiercer” and celebrity golf show “The Match” — within Electronic Arts’ “UFC 3” fighting game. That was followed by Experian testing an ad for Experian Boost within the same game.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “especially with the loss of live sports for much of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become harder to reach a large swath of younger viewers on the biggest screen in the house.” Deloitte’s 14th edition of its digital media trends survey revealed that, “many consumers are trying new media and entertainment options during the pandemic.”

Experian Consumer Services VP of integrated marketing Steve Hartmann said that traditional TV is its “biggest marketing channel by spending … [but] the way people are consuming media these days, you don’t reach 100 percent of your audience on TV anymore.”

Simulmedia’s software allow marketers to “target TV ads to audiences more narrowly than TV’s usual broad age and gender demographics.” By watching the ad, gamers can earn points or other rewards for in-game benefits. Simulmedia is in talks with other console game manufacturers, according to the company’s CEO and founder Dave Morgan, who said that, “game owners will get most of the ad revenue.”

WSJ notes that, “rewards-based video ads are common in mobile and social-media games but have been largely absent from console games played on TV screens.” HJA Strategic Marketing founder Eric Fischer notes the exceptions, such as the National Basketball Association’s console games which “feature signs and other branding from league sponsors in their virtual arenas.”

The advent of downloading and streaming games, rather than physical discs, however, is enabling more advertising to be found on consoles, such as “Fortnite,” which screened a “Tenet” trailer inside the game’s virtual world.

DigiDay reports that, “after months of marketplace disruption driven by the coronavirus crisis, the digital advertising market as a whole has no choice but to inch forward unsteadily right now.” It adds that, according to agency and publisher sources, “advertisers [are] more focused than ever on justifiable investments …. [even as] not every show or format has rebounded in the same way.”

Supply chain issues created by COVID-19 still exist and “are still curbing ad spending among some DTC [direct-to-consumer] brands, which are trying to avoid driving sales they can’t fulfill in a timely fashion.”