In-App Mobile Game Advertising Is the Perfect Gift for Getting Consumers’ Attention This Holiday Season

Digital media professionals understand that time and attention form some of the most valuable currency consumers can offer to a brand. Yet, amidst this awareness, numerous U.S. brand marketers overlook a realm abundant with attention: mobile gaming. 

As the holiday season draws near, delving into this market becomes all the more crucial. Josh Qualy, VP of Digital Turbine’s East Coast brand business in the U.S., presents compelling research underscoring the significant disparity in holiday ad frequency between in-mobile gaming (13.6%) and more conventional channels like T.V. (29.6%) and social media (17.1%).

According to their research, mobile gaming captures consumer attention and surpasses the time spent on platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. Despite these compelling statistics, U.S. advertisers significantly trail the rest of the world in investments in mobile game ads, ranking eighth out of the top 10 global markets. 

We spoke with Josh Qualy to understand these data points and explored how advertisers and publishers can win the attention game. 

Andrew Byrd: Why is attention so critical in digital media?

Josh Qualy: Attention matters because, simply put, viewability doesn’t mean viewed. Without a better metric, advertisers will continue to invest in costly channels and campaigns with little or no ROI. 

Attention has proven to be 6x better than viewability in predicting brand recall. With screens jammed with content, users are used to scrolling past or skipping things with just a passing glance. Advertisers must measure attention over viewability to get a better indication of campaign success.  

AB: Why do you believe U.S. brand marketers are not fully capitalizing on the abundant attention available in online gaming channels?

J.Q.: First, I see U.S. brand marketers catching up in 2024. Right now, brand advertisers are still navigating new privacy regulations and changes in consumer behavior. These influences have forced advertisers to rethink and re-evaluate their campaign strategies. 

Chief among those has been the understanding of the shift from viewability to attention. With them now armed to take advantage of these insights, 2024 is where they put these learnings into practice – seeking to find formats that maximize attention, which will include in-game advertising. 

AB: Could you elaborate on the ad frequency data for in-mobile gaming compared to T.V. and social media and what implications this might have for publishers and advertisers as the holiday season approaches?

J.Q.: The holiday season is make or break for advertisers. Optimizing ROAS is complex, but one factor is undoubtedly advertising share of voice. Compared to media channels such as TV and social media, the data show that U.S. consumers do not see brand ads nearly as often in mobile games. There’s less competition and more opportunity to achieve a greater share of voices and drive higher ROAS. 

In contrast, in other countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, and China, the data show that advertisers are already taking advantage of the growing in-game opportunity and are likely driving a greater share of voice and ROAS. 

This gives U.S. advertisers an advantage this holiday season since they can place their relevant ads in mobile game environments that will be less cluttered. And let’s face it: Advertisers always blitz consumers with holiday campaigns. Finding an environment where your ad can easily reach eyeballs can make all the difference.

Attention is still a new concept. And it's still something advertisers are learning to measure, understand, and harness in their campaigns

AB: The statistics indicate that mobile gaming surpasses Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram regarding the time consumers spend playing. Why do you think U.S. advertisers are not investing as much in mobile game ads despite this significant attention?

J.Q.: Attention is still a new concept. And it’s still something advertisers are learning to measure, understand, and harness in their campaigns. Taking a step back, the advertisers currently investing in mobile games are performance advertisers. They are taking advantage of the opportunity because they are more in tune with the metrics of success that games offer. Brand advertisers are just later to the party. The same trend happened with social platforms like Facebook. As the market matures, you’ll see a tipping point for brand advertisers. 

AB: Your data highlights the attention-grabbing potential of interactive video advertising in mobile games. Can you share insights into how this format outperforms non-skippable YouTube ads in terms of consumer attention and brand impact?

J.Q.: In-game advertising uses a model similar to network TV, where they weave ad breaks into natural breaks in the content. While TV used the model of crafting ads into scene changes, games put ad breaks after a natural pause in play – after players complete a move or a level. This properly sets the consumer expectation that an ad is coming. 

Compare this to YouTube or other social platforms, where they place ads at awkward times in the consumer experience. Mobile games find that sweet spot of cooperation between the publisher and advertiser. Advertisers get a format that maximizes attention to their video spots, while publishers can offer ad spots that don’t disturb or interrupt the user. 

The key to driving brand impact is harnessing attention into action where a consumer can seamlessly learn more, engage with the brand, configure a product, sign up for an offer, find the closest retailer, or even buy an advertised product. Many Advertisers today attempt to do this by placing QR codes in their TV or YouTube advertising. But engagements with these are low because TV and YouTube are passive activities – your fingers are at rest. In mobile games, consumers use their fingers to tap and engage with stimuli. 

Digital Turbine seamlessly integrates brand engagement interaction for our clients into these highly attentive moments, and the results are phenomenal. Adding post-video interactivity not only doubles the attentive seconds of an ad but also has a massive multiplier effect on brand impact.

AB: The figures indicate that many U.S. gamers remember brand advertising through mobile advertising. What strategies or elements in mobile game ads contribute to this high recall rate, and how can publishers and advertisers leverage this information?

J.Q.: Mobile games are immersive and engaging experiences, while social platforms are more passive. When viewing social feeds or reels, people are actively searching for content. While this may put their eyeballs and fingers to work, the mind is activating them to skip or scroll past things to find interesting content. 

Meanwhile, in games, the mind activates the eyes and fingers to find ways to win a game. With the mindset trained on engagement rather than skipping, putting a video ad with post-ad interactivity is the perfect way for brands to build awareness, engagement and convert users all in one spot.

AB: As we approach the holiday season, what advice would you give to brand marketers looking to make the most of the mobile gaming market?

J.Q.: Don’t neglect this opportunity. With concerns over inflation, consumers will be judicious about their brand choices. Mobile games offer a unique opportunity to build brand awareness, engagement, and conversions in one fell swoop. Using rewarded video ads in games can elevate your brand to the next level. In the U.S., 54% of people agree that an in-game rewarded ad experience creates a “halo” of more favorable brand opinion.