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Singapore’s virtual island getaway is bloody brilliant

After getting hit by COVID restrictions, Singapore’s Sentosa island resort and BBH created (read: hacked together) a virtual version of the famous island getaway in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing.

In an interview with The Drum, the BBH explained:

“[We] created over 50 custom-made designs for the island, which represented individual brands and attractions on the island, such as restaurants and clubs.”

NintendoSoup described the virtual resort as:

“Beach bars, nature trails, the Skyline Luge, the Shangri-La and Capella hotels, and a spot for yoga by the beach, all recreated within Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

This is a whole new level of creativity in advertising and brand activation.

Why should you care?

Video games are now mainstream.

Several times a week thousands of people choose to spend their free time playing games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing.

As Owen Williams wrote on his blog:

“Not only is Fortnite the new hangout spot, replacing the mall, Starbucks or just loitering in the city, it’s become the coveted ‘third place’ for millions of people around the world.”

With fewer young people watching TV (and even when they do it’s often an ad-free streaming service) brand activation needs to go where people are instead.

As BBH Singapore’s Chief Creative Officer told The Drum:

“We‘re living in times where our audience literally is paying money to avoid seeing our work. We really need to work a lot harder to provide value. A shortcut to that are those cultural moments… because they immediately make you relevant and interesting. It‘s really important that we leave this bubble of the hip, Netflix-watching ad men and women and really look out to see what the majority of people really care about.”

These are still early days.

And many brands are still building their approach to gaming. You can go the influencer route or run strategic campaigns like Samsung

But no matter the road you take, you need to start talking about your approach to gaming with your team. Now.

Newzoo’s Remer Rietkerk has relevant advice for any brand manager looking to define their approach to gaming:

“Brand activation in games can take many different forms. Fortnite is a trailblazer for in-game activations, making it a perfect case study. Travis Scott performed an in-game virtual concert, a collaboration with Nike which generated 27 million unique virtual attendees. This was only the latest in a series of events Epic Games launched in its Fortnite game world, with previous examples including Marvel, Batman, and Star Wars.”

He also advises sticking to these key principles:

  • Any collaboration must make sense in the game‘s universe; it shouldn‘t feel forced.
  • It needs to feel authentic, resonating with the community the promotion is servicing.
  • Promotions cannot interfere with gameplay, especially in big-budget games

In-Game Advertising 101

A few weekends ago I was tending to my hotels, you know on my mobile phone, when I noticed how the in-game ads changed from prompting me to download a fast-paced FPS in the morning to fitness apps in the afternoon and finally to meditation apps late at night.

Considering that I was intentionally watching those ads to gain some much-needed cashflow made me wonder how well marketers are using in-game ads. 

There’s an app for that. Did you know that your phone carries your personal microbiome? No surprises there, right? 

We spend around 3 hours and 15 minutes per day staring at our phones and 80% of that time is spent in apps.

The global app market is already worth an estimated $461 billion and expected to double in 3 years. That’s a great news if you’re an app developer and even better if you’re a game developer.

The current state of mobile gaming

Since 2016 time spent playing mobile games has increased by10% every year.

While the COVID lockdown has been a disaster for some industries, mobile gaming wasn’t one of them. The first 3 months of social distancing recorded 90 million hours of gameplay and a 30% increase in in-app purchases.

Image source.

Playable ads and other cool stuff

The one thing both advertisers and game developers can agree is that engagement matters. 

Thanks to Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definition (MRAID) a lot of previous challenges with delivering rich media ads caused by the differences in iOS and Android have been sorted out. Today one the most sought after types of in-game advertising is Playable Ads.

A Playable ad is in fact a game delivered as an ad within a game. A Gameception if you will. You can try these examples from Moët and Chandon and New Balance.

Aren’t they just skipping the ads?

In fact the opposite. Tapjoy found that more people are willing to give up Social Media apps and TV than their favourite mobile games.

The same survey also discovered that mobile gamers are 2x more likely to pay attention to an in-game ad compared to browsing the web.

Another study found that 86% of gamers play mobile games during their downtime. when they’re not distracted by anything else. Perhaps that’s why people are more likely to remember the finer details of an ad viewed in an app.

As far as purchase behaviour goes, more people are likely to buy the product seen in the in-game ad than on Instagram.

Show us the ads, please. Most gaming apps are Freemium or ad-supported. Last year mobile games accounted for 74% of consumer spending on mobile, racking in more than $86 billion in revenue.

When it comes to advertising nothing beats reaching a captivated audience.

As far as ads go, mobile gamers are much more willing to play a free game that includes ads and would gladly watch them if they got a reward in return. Currently, mobile games account for 10% of time spent on mobile and 74% of consumer spending.

However, what type of ads mobile gamers prefer depends on who you ask. While Millennials like to get rewarded for watching ads their parents prefer to view ads as a part of the gameplay. 

The bottom line

People love playing their favourite games several times a day. Plus games also provide better brand safety than Facebook or YouTube. 

With AR/VR technologies coming of age and 5G networks around the corner, in-game advertising provides a brilliant opportunity for reaching highly engaged people through immersive and engaging ads.

It’s totally worth a shot.