Next era gaming

GroupM MENA’s Youssef Raad explains the exciting world of moment marketing

Brands no longer see gaming as a one-time opportunity but as a major component of their marketing strategies. This should not come as a shock, as the gaming industry is offering a completely different canvas than the usual advertising solutions we see in the digital and virtual marketing space.

This can be done through gamified ads, mobile games, streaming platforms, instream overlays, metaverse activations, brand collaborations, and partnerships with gaming publishers and developers.

Let’s look at the numbers: the gaming world’s revenue growth over the past few years has been profound, with in-game advertising growing from a mere $210M in 2017 to $450M in 2023 and on track to hot $1 billion in 2029.

There are 160 million gamers in the MENA region today and growing, and with such expected growth, we are already seeing governments in the UAE and KSA jumping at the chance to invest and develop in the interactive entertainment sector.

Gaming is now offering the next big innovational step in the marketing world that only social media has provided marketers in the past. As a result, we are in the midst of the most significant multigenerational shift in communications history.

We say multigenerational because people often make the mistake of thinking it’s ‘just Gen Z’ or ‘just males’ who have different media consumption habits (especially in gaming) to previous generations when in actual fact, it’s everyone.

Gaming encompasses people of all demographics. Its prominence has reached such heights that a pivotal shift has taken place: where once popular culture influenced games, now games hold sway over popular culture. Our beloved characters are no longer confined to the realms of movies and books; they emerge prominently from the world of gaming.

This paradigm shift has already unfolded, and brands that embrace this new communications economy are poised to reap substantial rewards.

In-game moments

Marketers can tap into many unique characteristics that make up in-game advertising. For me, one of the most exciting characteristics is moment marketing. With real-time tracking of in-game moments, audio recognition and the implementation of AI to tap into crucial moments during gameplay, gaming now offers brands the ability to highlight their products at the most appropriate time to any of their chosen gaming audiences.

For instance, real-time tracking enables advertisers to monitor in-game triggers. For example, if a gamer’s character is low on life, an ad for an energy drink could show in-game; audio recognition provides audio cues to identify ad opportunities, and AI is continuously perfecting and learning from player interactions.

Another major growth aspect of gaming is the ever-expanding virtual events, competitions, and concerts. In December last year, Fortnite launched its latest virtual concert, Big Bang, featuring Eminem, following previous concerts with Marshmello and Travis.

Such innovation is second to none when it comes to the creativity and excitement, they bring to gaming fans. Gaming is now bringing to the table more imaginative ways to hold these types of events through the unlimited diversity of the metaverse. More artists, brands and e-sports fanatics are jumping at the chance to be part of these vast occurrences.

At GroupM, we cater to our client’s appetite for innovation and staying ahead of the latest trends. In 2023, we created a full-fledged gaming campaign for our Wavemaker MENA’s client Mentos through a localised bespoke challenge for gamers to compete against one another through the brand message ‘Yes to Twitch’.

The challenge encouraged users to use the hashtag #MentosYestoFresh on chat, and users won free in-game accessories and money. By tying up with gaming streamers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, we achieved 1 million unique views while reaching 1.3 million users, driving over 50,000 brand mentions.

This campaign put Mentos on the gaming map within MENA and created excitement to push further experimentation in the gaming sphere, with a 2.0 version already in the works.

It’s time for brands to grab the controller and meet their consumers in the gaming arena. We are ready to push the boundaries and disrupt the playground, to play and win.

By Youssef Raad, Gaming Lead at GroupM MENA