With 2.9 billion gamers worldwide, the global gaming industry is massive, generating revenue of $177.8 billion in 2020, which is an over 23% increase compared to the year prior, according to estimates by Newzoo. And the pandemic only amplified the trend as homebound gamers played more. Brands have increasingly followed, despite some having limited gaming knowledge or expertise. Enter ad agencies, which aim to bridge that gap for clients. But just like not every gamer is built the same, not every agency’s business model around the industry is identical.
Holding companies like Publicis Groupe have their own dedicated gaming and esports offering within their larger sports and entertainment division, while other shops within agencies, like Omnicom’s DDB, have developed their own dedicated gaming and esports practices. Other agencies are solely dedicated to the gaming space and esports and on the other end of the spectrum, there are esports organizations creating their own agencies dedicated to marketing for clients looking to enter the esports market.
Earlier this year Publicis Groupe launched Publicis Play in the U.K., a specialized gaming and esports offering for non-endemic clients that resides within the company’s broader Publicis Sport & Entertainment division. Having a gaming offering as part of an agency network brings an advantage for its brands, says Jeff Garrant, U.S. group lead and senior VP of Publicis Sport & Entertainment.
“We live in a world where our brands are looking to do more than just gaming,” Garrant says. “To have that broader perspective of what they're doing and what their objectives are in general, helps us bring more of an integrated effort as it relates to the gaming space. We can make sure that it ties within the overall marketing initiatives of the brand.”
Last year, PSE in Australia hosted a branded livestream for Dare Iced Coffee on Twitch featuring professional athletes from Australian soccer team St Kilda Saints and leading gaming influencer LoserFruit. The execution included digital, promotion, and social tactics and promotion, as well as a “Fortnite Lockdown-Showdown,” where fans were treated to a Q&A with the players and were able to play against the soccer players and LoserFruit in Fortnite.
Even though PSE already had been working in the space for over five years, it was important for the company to have a dedicated gaming proposition that advertisers could gravitate to for specific needs in the space, the company says. The team is composed of 10 specialists from Publicis.Poke, Publicis Sport & Entertainment, and Spark Foundry.
“Even before the pandemic we'd already started seeing the questions that were coming in [from brands] were not generally about sports and entertainment platforms, which is the broader piece that we work in, but they were coming specifically around gaming and esports,” Ben Cronin, global head of Publicis Sport & Entertainment. “We came to the decision in the U.K. that there was enough this interest to require its own standalone access point to us as an agency.”
The pandemic also accelerated the trend as homebound consumers sought out gameplay and marketers took notice. According to a report by now-defunct Nielsen research company, SuperData, early in 2020 (January and February), before COVID-19 effects were truly felt in the U.S. game spending was up 6%. As the year progressed, game spending nearly doubled, rising to 14% for the rest of the year.
Newzoo found that 51% of gamers in Western Europe and North America reported spending more time playing games since COVID-19 began.
“The pandemic raised the consciousness of gaming within some of our marketing clients and brought perhaps a realization that this audience is mainstream,” Cronin says. “There are a lot of segments in it. There is a legitimacy to advertising and using the platform of gaming and esports to reach those audiences.”