Why In-Game Ads Are Taking Off

Why In-Game Ads Are Taking Off

Gaming

eMarketer recently forecast that U.S. mobile gaming ad revenues will reach $6.26 billion in 2022, up a muscular 14.0 percent from $5.49 billion in 2021. And that’s not all: robust double-digit growth is predicted to continue through 2024. What does this news mean to brands?

What eMarketer Reported

According to eMarketer, the pandemic has given mobile gaming a boost. The most popular device for gaming appears to be smartphones — good news for advertisers, as casual smartphone gamers may not feel the need to pay for ad-free platforms. Media companies have certainly taken note of the inherent opportunities in this arena: consider Netflix, which acquired mobile game studio Next Games and mobile game developer Boss Fight Entertainment. Significantly, the gaming trend appears to be staying strong: eMarketer projects that mobile gaming is poised to reach $7.87 billion in ad revenues in 2024. That’s a total of 2.5 percent of all digital ad spend. Long story short: gaming isn’t going anywhere, and marketers stand to benefit.

The Netflix Effect

It’s likely that Netflix’s deep dive into gaming will boost the in-game advertising market over the next few years. The company also stands to draft a blueprint as to how gaming can revitalize a stagnant, even suffering, brand. Netflix, under tremendous pressure to boost its revenues after reporting a disappointing first quarter of 2022, has plenty of motivation — it lost 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of this year, with a forecasted further loss of 2 million subscribers.

But gaming could help the subscription streaming service find its groove again. As reported by the Washington Post, Netflix plans to make 50 games available before year’s end, some of which may be tied in to shows. The company is hardly starting from scratch, having already dipped a toe into gaming waters by licensing intellectual property or adapting already popular games. But now it’s clear that Netflix will be leaning even harder into gaming—and all the opportunities that will subsequently come their way.

Handle with Care

As exciting as those opportunities may be, it’s important for advertisers to proceed with caution when it comes to in-game ads. As eMarketer notes, gamers are anxious about ads possibly interrupting their play. What format the ads take is part of the issue: while in-game billboards in racing or open-world games may be unobtrusive, the prospect of ads served up between game matches or, even worse, obscuring the screen mid-match, have consumers worriedly gnashing their teeth. To be fair, ads have been part of the gaming experience since gaming first became a thing. But as eMarketer points out, “ads still aren’t baked into the medium the way they are for TV, and advertisers should be mindful of players’ wishes for a non-disruptive experience.”

What Advertisers Should Do

 So, what is the best way for brands to capitalize on the gaming phenom? We recommend that you:

  • Know your audience. Gamers are a diverse bunch. Know their habits, know their passion points. Above all, understand what games your target audience enjoys. You’ll find moms playing games like Home Sheep Home, while 18-to-24-year-olds reliably gravitate to Fortnite. Understand the trends, and who’s where, before attempting to advertise on a gaming platform.
  • Know gaming. Make sure you understand the medium. Furthermore, really understand the game itself. It’s not enough that a game is popular—or even popular with your chosen demographic. Is it a good match for your brand? A game like Doom, well liked if admittedly violent, may or may not be consistent with the messaging your brand hopes to impart.
  • Know your limits—and the limits of your audience. Returning to the point made above about proceeding with caution: make sure that your ads aren’t ruining the gaming experience for your potential customers. Respecting the integrity of a game represents a win/win for gamers and marketers alike.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to learn more about the opportunities gaming—and in-game ads—can afford your brand? Contact us. We can help.

What Does Meta’s Big Move with Horizon Worlds Mean to Brands?

What Does Meta’s Big Move with Horizon Worlds Mean to Brands?

Meta

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced that the company will help individual creators generate income in Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform. This is a significant sign that the so-called metaverse will open up ways for people to monetize the metaverse as it takes shape.

What Is the Metaverse?

The metaverse is a shared virtual world where people can work, play, and live through digital twins, or avatars. Aspects of the metaverse are here already: every time we use a digital currency, every time we hang out on Fortnite or Roblox (gaming is currently a big slice of the metaverse), we’re engaging with parts of the metaverse. They’re just not connected seamlessly yet.

Businesses such as Meta aren’t waiting for all the details to get sorted, though: they are staking a claim to this nascent world by building their own virtual worlds.

What Is Horizon Worlds?

So, what exactly is Meta trotting out? Horizon Worlds (formerly Facebook Horizon) is a free virtual reality, online video game that allows people to build and explore virtual worlds on the metaverse. In short, Horizon Worlds is one potential access point into the metaverse via a gaming platform.

Meta first published the game on its virtual reality Oculus VR headsets in the United States and Canada on December 9, 2021. This approach meant that the audience for Horizon World was necessarily limited to people who could afford a virtual reality headset (specifically, Oculus VR). But Meta is now making Horizon Worlds available even if users do not have virtual reality headsets.

What Did Meta Announce about Horizon Worlds?

Mark Zuckerberg said Meta is testing new tools that allow creators to expand their reach—and create some lucrative opportunities—within the worlds they build on Horizon Worlds. In a video, he said, “The ability to sell virtual items and access to things inside the worlds is a new part of [the] e-commerce equation overall. We’re starting rolling this out with just a handful of creators and we’ll see how it goes but I imagine that over time we’ll get to roll it out more and more.”

If there’s anything Meta wants you to take away from this development, that would be:

  • Meta is testing a way for creators to sell virtual items and experiences within their worlds.
  • Meta is also testing a Horizon Worlds Creator Bonus program.

While Meta is currently working with a handful of creators to get feedback on this initiative, the long-term plan is to create an environment in which creators can earn a living in a world of digital goods, services, and experiences. The overall vision is that the metaverse will crack possibilities for entrepreneurs—wide open. And it’s not a matter of creators being thrown into this world without a safety net or guide: a $10 million Horizon Creators Fund, announced last October, is meant to provide resources to Horizon Worlds creators.

The opportunities are certainly compelling: Meta is rolling out a test with a few creators that facilitates the selling of virtual items within their worlds. This might manifest as attachable accessories entrepreneurs create for a fashion world, say, or paid access to a new part of a creator’s world.

Meanwhile, the Horizon Worlds Creator Bonus program, meant for participants in the United States, offers bonuses in the form of goal-oriented monthly programs that reward creators with a pay-out at month’s end. The bonuses honor progress made towards the creator’s goals, and are not subject to fees (read: creators will be paid in full). While rewards may evolve, creators are currently rewarded (in the limited test) for building worlds that attract the “most time spent.”

What Does All This Mean?

This is how we read this news:

  • Horizon Worlds is yet another sign that the metaverse is getting bigger with extraordinary speed. For confirmation, one need look no further than JP Morgan, which says the metaverse is a “trillion dollar industry” in which it acknowledges “explosive interest.” They aren’t just talking the talk: the investment bank has opened a lounge in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland. The Onyx lounge, named for JP Morgan’s Onyx blockchain unit, includes a roaming tiger that greets visitors and a portrait of CEO Jamie Dimon, not to mention a suite of Ethereum-based services. JP Morgan’s claim to fame? That it is the first major lender to enter the metaverse.
  • It’s also an example of how businesses are empowering the so-called creator economy, a class of businesses comprising millions of independent content creators and influencers. We’re hearing about creators more partly because apps like TikTok have granted them more power and more influence.

But the creator economy stands to become even more powerful. That’s because collaboration networks are proliferating, networks that give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential brand partnerships, even as crypto currency sites like Rally.io empower creators to mint their own currency.

It’s a rich vein to mine, and big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators (that brings us back to the news about Horizon Worlds and the resources Meta is making available). Going forward, more businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Will big-name partnerships with stars still thrive? Sure, but the social media icons are going to need to make room for the new kids in town.

What Brands Should Do

What does this mean for your brand? As you consider the opportunities inherent in the metaverse, we recommend that you:

  • Remember your audience. Do they care about the immersive worlds that the metaverse makes possible? That is, will marketing and advertising in the metaverse even matter to them—much less reach them? The biggest audience for the metaverse currently skews young, although some brands are making a concerted effort to reach out to older consumers. Ask yourself who your audience is, and if you have the resources and energy to reach out to them if their engagement with the metaverse represents a tougher sell.
  • Reflect on your appetite for experimentation. This is a new frontier that is already evolving. Are you ready to pivot—and pivot again—as conditions change?
  • Learn from businesses that have already found their marketing access point in immersive gaming worlds, which are, as noted, a popular segment of the metaverse.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about the metaverse? Eager to dip a toe but looking for some guidance? Contact us. We can help you map a way in this new world.

How Brands Are Winning March Madness

How Brands Are Winning March Madness

Advertising

March Madness means great basketball. It also means creative brand activations. And this year, perhaps inspired by the returning energy of in-person fans (because of Covid, fans hadn’t been present at the games since 2019), the campaigns seem more innovative than ever. The slate of advertisers is certainly robust: “We’ve written more revenue in this tournament than we ever have before, record-setting revenues for this year,” notes Jon Bogusz, the executive vice president of CBS sports sales and marketing. Let’s take a closer look at what brands are doing for this event—and what that means for you.

Gaming Online

Video game streaming platform Twitch is embracing March Madness with two new brand activations. /TwitchSports, Twitch’s sports streaming service, has revived two shows—“Let’s Go! College Hoops” and “SuperFan FaceOff”—with sponsorships by Wendy’s and Philips Norelco. It’s a win-win (no pun intended!) for both the brands and the platform: the brands help Twitch expand its reach and popularity in the sports community, even as the brands benefit from /TwitchSports’s huge viewership. “With hours watched of sports content on Twitch growing in the triple-digit percentages last year, we’re thrilled to open up some of our original content on /TwitchSports to both returning and new advertisers on Twitch,” notes Sarah Iooss, head of sales for the Americas at Twitch. As Iooss explains it, /TwitchSports gives brands exposure to sports fans in the powerful Millennial and Gen Z demographics.

The campaigns capitalize on the power inherent in the Twitch platform. Philips Norelco, which is sponsoring “SuperFan FaceOff,” makes use of Twitch’s integrated chat feature. Meanwhile, Wendy’s returns to Twitch to feature a segment of “SuperFan FaceOff” in which hosts call out their fave daily menu items from the fast-food chain. Branding from both sponsors will appear on the Twitch platform and livestreams.

Gaming in Person

Wendy’s has also pursued an in-person activation at the Entertainment Capital of the World. Partnering with Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” animated series, the chain participated in “Morty’s Mayhem,” an immersive LED experience housed at Resorts World Las Vegas. Running from March 17 through 20, “Morty’s Mayhem” featured games, an area to watch the basketball tournaments, swag from both sponsors, and the not-to-be-missed Pickle Rick Frosty, a salty take on Wendy’s Frosty graced with dried pickle garnish. The Pickle Rick confection was offered for free; Wendy’s also got the chance to promote treats such as the new Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit. As Tricia Melton, chief marketing officer for Warner Bros. Kids, Young Adults and Classics, notes, “It’s a perfect trifecta. You’ve got Vegas, you’ve got college basketball at its apex and you’ve got this ‘Rick and Morty’ partnership with Wendy’s that brings this other whole layer of surprise and silliness and fan experience altogether.”

A New Look — and New Products

For Coldwell Banker, the basketball tournament represents an opportunity to unveil not only a new website but three new tools: CB Estimate, Move Meter, and the Seller’s Assurance Program. Called “Dream,” the campaign aired March 15 during March Madness, and leaned into the idea that Coldwell Banker can help make people’s dreams of home . . . come true. As the real estate franchise sees it, even our fondest dreams may require a jumpstart from data, and Coldwell Banker aims to help with its seller-focused tools.

They do address a need. As reported in MediaPost, almost half of American homeowners don’t know the current value of their home. The campaign also underlines the seismic changes that have taken place in brand outreach. As David Marine, CMO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, says, “The pandemic changed some aspects of media with the surge in streaming, and the fact that early on some media outlets that we wouldn’t ordinarily focus on, like cable news, all of a sudden became really efficient.”

Hitting the Road

Meanwhile, Nissan, an official partner of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments, has launched its “Road 2” campaign featuring mascots from 27 teams. The message? The path to the Final Fours can be . . . unpredictable. The campaign, which embraces media like TV as well as onsite activations at both the men’s and women’s tournaments, features eight new spots and incorporates new Nissan models like the all-electric Nissan Ariya crossover. And fans who complete both the men’s and women’s online bracket challenge, created in partnership with CBS Sports, may have a chance at winning some brand-new wheels in the form of the new Nissan Frontier.

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from the brands who have hitched their wagons to the March Madness star? Some takeaways as we see it:

  • Know your audience. Brands like Philips Norelco surely understand that a platform like Twitch is frequented by Gen Z and Millennials. By making themselves visible on Twitch, they are increasing exposure to these key demographics.
  • Don’t be afraid to have fun — and take some chances. Wendy’s pulled out the stops with a fun take on an old favorite. While we may not immediately associate pickles with a Frosty, Wendy’s made the leap, and it’s been a successful one: this isn’t the Pickle Rick’s first rodeo. It first debuted in Los Angeles in 2021.
  • Give your audience a little gift — and a lift. Free Pickle Ricks. Free tools like Coldwell Bank’s CB Estimate. Consumers the world over respond positively to getting something at no cost.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Nissan’s “Road 2” campaign reaches out to consumers in different ways, from the television commercials to social and onsite activations.
  • Stay flexible — and informed. Coldwell Banker’s understanding of how the pandemic has shaped advertising helped them formulate a campaign that makes sense for how consumers connect with messaging in 2022.
  • Finally, think about what annual events might represent a good opportunity for your brand. Is there a connection to what you sell or do? Does the event draw the same audience you hope to woo?

Contact True Interactive

March Madness illustrates how brands can harness the power of popular events to reach a broad audience. Want to learn more? Contact us. We can help.

Advertising and Marketing in the Metaverse

Advertising and Marketing in the Metaverse

Advertising

The metaverse is hot. One need look no further for proof than the fact that Facebook changed its company name to Meta in October 2021. Consequently, the metaverse is one of the most talked-about topics in business right now. Companies are already figuring out how to make the most of what it has to offer. How might the metaverse help them make money? How might brands embrace advertising and marketing there?

The Metaverse Defined

As was the case with the internet back in the day, new definitions of the metaverse are constantly cropping up, from all quarters. There is a lot of speculation about the metaverse arriving in the future. But the term was actually coined decades ago in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash. Aspects of the metaverse — a shared virtual world where people can work, play, and live through digital twins, or avatars — are here already. Every time someone uses a digital currency, every time someone hangs out on Fortnite or Roblox (gaming is currently a big slice of the metaverse), we’re engaging with parts of metaverse (they’re just not yet connected seamlessly).

As the metaverse takes shape, savvy brands are already planting a flag in this rich terrain. And to do so, they are looking at things a tad differently. Brittan Heller, counsel with the American law firm Foley Hoag, puts it this way: “When you think about advertising in XR [extended reality, one of the building blocks of the metaverse], you should think about it as placement in the product instead of product placement.” Heller may be thinking of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Marc Jacobs, which have designed digital products for the game Animal Crossing. Or Balenciaga, which has collaborated with Fortnite to drop exclusive wearable skins for in-game characters. She notes, “An ad in virtual reality may look like buying a designer jacket for your digital avatar [but] that’s an ad for a clothing company that you are wearing on your body.” Coveted digital fashion sometimes bests even real-world counterparts: in Roblox’s virtual world, for example, a digital-only Gucci bag sold for more money than the bag would have netted in the physical world.

Some metaverse advertising, of course, falls back on real-world models. Consider games like Tiki-Taka Soccer and FIFA Mobile, which are already incorporating billboards as part of the game universe. The billboards are meant to raise awareness —just like the billboards we pass on the highway — and if players wish, they can access more intel about the product.

But there is also a concerted effort to create advertising unique to the metaverse experience. The day when users can interact freely with embodiments of a brand — an avatar for a celebrity or an existing character from, say, Disney — is not far off.

The takeaway: there are already opportunities for brands to flex advertising muscle in the metaverse, and those opportunities are growing exponentially.

What Businesses Should Do

What does this mean for your brand? Does delving into the metaverse make sense for you? As you consider these questions, we recommend that you:

  • Remember your audience first. How attuned are they to immersive worlds such as the metaverse? Is marketing and advertising in the metaverse a good fit for them? Currently, the biggest audience for the metaverse skews young: Gen Zers who have grown up gaming and for whom the intricacies of a virtual world are already familiar. But some brands are addressing this divide by reaching out directly to an older cohort. Roblox, for example, has developed features to appeal to older users. And so, the attendant question to ask yourself is: do you have the energy and resources to think outside the box and woo your audience, no matter what generation they inhabit?
  • Assess your appetite for experimentation. This is a brave new world that’s constantly changing. How comfortable are you with that dynamic?
  • Learn from businesses that have been getting involved in advertising and marketing in immersive gaming worlds, which are, as noted, extremely popular in the metaverse. A really good example consists of brands that have been embracing in-game ads, as we blogged here.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to make online advertising deliver measurable results on all platforms and apps. To learn how we can help you, contact us. Learn more about our services here.

How Businesses Are Building Their Brands through “Squid Game”

How Businesses Are Building Their Brands through “Squid Game”

Advertising Branding Marketing

White slip-on Vans have never been so cool. And red light green light? For fans of Netflix’s Korean-language series “Squid Game,” winning that simple childhood contest just took on a whole new meaning. Though it only launched on September 17, “Squid Game” has quickly become Netflix’s most-watched series—ever. Mining themes of economic disparity and the survival instinct, “Squid Game” sets up a disturbing premise: a group of hopelessly indebted people in South Korea are invited to join a tournament of six children’s games to win a pot of cash. The catch? Losers are eliminated—but as the contestants soon find out, that doesn’t mean they just get to take their ball and go home. They are killed off, with the surviving players competing for increasing shares of the loot. Spoiler alert: there will be blood.

 

And audiences don’t seem to mind. Netflix has shared that in the first four weeks after the show’s drop, 142 million households had already tuned in to the dark drama. As early as October 3, Forbes was reporting that “Squid Game” was the number-one Netflix show in a whopping 90 countries. That’s a lot of eyeballs, and the show’s global appeal naturally opened up a huge playing field for businesses to create interesting marketing strategies around the show. But because Netflix doesn’t offer brands an opportunity to run commercials, advertisers have had to figure out some creative ways to tap into this juggernaut. Let’s take a closer look.

Examples of Brands Capitalizing on “Squid Game”

Some brands haven’t had to do much but enjoy the ride. Vans, for example, hasn’t paid for any product placement. But in the show, game contestants are given teal tracksuits and white slip-on shoes to wear during the tournament, a costume that has turned out to be insanely lucrative for Vans. In the two weeks after “Squid Game’s” launch, the American shoe and apparel company reported a jaw-dropping 7,800 percent jump in sales, probably fueled at least in part by a 97 percent increase in online searches for  “white slip-on.”

Other brands have had to be a bit more proactive. Nutter Butter took to Twitter, superimposing its cookie on a “Squid Game” guard’s head and insisting that “We want Nut Game.”

 

Also on Twitter, Heineken used its red star-shaped logo in a nod to one of the show’s tournament games, one in which players, not yet knowing the game rules, choose one shape from a selection of four.

 

They must then extract that shape from where it has been stamped into a “dalgona,” or sugar candy (“The best pick,” Heineken crowed in reference to the star). And Pepsi latched onto the sweet and deadly game with an Instagram post featuring its logo carved into a sugary disk.

Embracing a star from the series has been another way to connect with the show. Louis Vuitton recently announced “Squid Game” actress Ho Yeon Jung as a company brand ambassador. The luxury brand is tapping into her burgeoning popularity on social media channels like Instagram. For context, when the show launched in September, Ho Yeon had 40,000 Instagram followers. Just three weeks later, that number had leapt to 19.1 million. Louis Vuitton clearly took note, and took action, a choice that’s paid off: Ho Yeon’s first post as ambassador earned more than seven million likes in the first few days.

Meanwhile, Netflix, no slouch in the promotions department, has made the savvy move of partnering with another corporate powerhouse — Walmart— to sell merchandise for a number of popular streaming shows including, natch, “Squid Game.” A dedicated digital storefront for Netflix, created by Walmart, is a natural go-to for consumers looking for merch associated with the show: everything from the white numbered tee-shirts worn by “Squid Game” contestants to knit beanies and mugs. This even as Netflix maintains its own line of apparel fans can customize with “designs inspired by the show.”

Lessons Learned

What might your brand take away from the whole “Squid Game” phenom? We suggest that in the face of any hot trend, you:

  • Act quickly. These businesses jumped in right away to capitalize on the buzz appeal of “Squid Game,” timing their marketing with the media frenzy building around the show. Had they waited too long, their marketing would have seemed stale and tired. But by acting quickly, brands like Heineken came across as relevant and cool.
  • Pay attention to your tone. “Squid Game,” despite its popularity, is a violent show that might not be for everyone. The brands discussed above figured out how to strike the right tone with their ads—in this case, content that didn’t skew too dark while still being recognizable as being inspired by the series.
  • Trust your audience—and recognize that you don’t have to reach everyone. The visually appealing ads, such as the Pepsi cut-out, come with zero explanation. But if you are a fan of “Squid Game,” you automatically understand the ad’s inside reference to one of the major plotlines. Pepsi trusted “Squid Game” fans to get the joke, even as they accepted that the ads would probably go over the heads of people who hadn’t seen the show.
  • Align with another brand if it makes sense. Netflix’s partnership with Walmart means that “Squid Game” merch reaches a wider audience. Both brands benefit if those beanies fly off the shelves. Likewise, Louis Vuitton’s connection with one of the show’s stars demonstrates relevance—and represents a mutually beneficial partnership.

Contact True Interactive

How to not only tap into trends but make it look easy? Contact us. We can help.

How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

Advertising

Back-to-school season is complicated this year. On the one hand, the proliferation of vaccines has created a certain sense of Covid-19 being sometime we can live with. But for kids, there isn’t necessarily a clear-cut “back to normal.” Although teens can be vaccinated, there is no vaccine ready for kids under 12, and the Delta variant is emerging as a real threat. Brands find themselves in a situation awkwardly similar to what they faced in 2020: welcoming kids back to school during an uncertain year. Read on to learn how some brands are navigating this delicate situation in their back-to-school digital marketing.

Embracing the Positive

The American Eagle campaign Future Together. Jeans Forever underlines the brand’s established mission of positivity. In a 30-second spot featuring singer Addison Rae and actors Caleb McLaughlin, Jenna Ortega, Chase Stokes, and Madison Bailey, the message is clear: this fall, students can at least look forward to the joy of being in the same room with their friends at school. And with the return to in-person learning, American Eagle is leaning in to the denim category. The implicit message? Now that students are back in the classroom, those go-to sweatpants that have dominated for the last 18 months of Covid and remote learning might just get kicked to the curb in favor of fun new styles—denim in particular.

The Joy of Creativity and Personal Expression

As reported in Ad Age, last year Dick’s Sporting Goods found success partnering with TikTok, and the retailer is returning to the platform as they double down on back-to-school messaging for 2021. This time around, the focus is on a “Lock In” TikTok challenge that underlines creativity: e.g., creators spend an evening in a Dick’s store and put together their own styles and content. As Ed Plummer, Dick’s chief marketing officer, explains, “We basically give them the keys to the store to see what they can come up with from a style perspective and share that with their followers.” The campaign’s energy and optimism not only reaches young consumers where they like to hang out (TikTok), but it underlines a simple message: joy in personal expression is a constant, no matter the uncertainty of the times.

Pop Art

Pop-Tarts also have personal expression on the brain. In a collaborative first for the Kellogg brand, Pop-Tarts partnered with Lyrical Lemonade to co-host a pop-up experience in Los Angeles. On August 13, select visitors were invited to decorate traditional back-to-school gear—from backpacks to notebooks and sneakers—with Pop-Tart-inspired art. The partnership gives Pop-Tarts greater access to the Gen Z demographic, as Lyrical Lemonade enjoys a wide social following. Case in point: the announcement of a limited-run Pop-Tarts x Lyrical Lemonade Toaster Pastry—the flavor is Lemon Creme Pie—generated more than 115,000 likes within 24 hours. And the benefits appear to go both ways. As Lyrical Lemonade founder Cole Bennett said in a press statement, “It’s been a while since everyone has been back together in school, and we loved the idea of collaborating with Pop-Tarts to get creative and make that first day back amazing.”

Meet the Parents

Meanwhile, Kohl’s recognizes that it’s not just students embarking on a new chapter: parents used to having their kids at home may be making their own transitions right now. As part of a campaign meant to run earlier and longer than past initiatives, a 30-second Kohl’s spot depicts a father dropping his son off at school. As the dad sits in the car singing along to a Zombies song, the son circles back to wish him a “great first day.” Greg Revelle, chief marketing officer of Kohl’s, notes, “It’s not just about your kid going back to school but all the changes going on for parents and loved ones as well.”

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from these brands?

  • For starters, make no mistake: even during uncertain times, it’s okay to be upbeat. By now people are accustomed to living with uncertainty. And as Ad Age points out, consumers are “craving optimistic, forward-looking marketing.” By focusing on the positive aspects of this new school year, American Eagle generates excitement—and hope.
  • That said, be careful not to promise “back to normal.” Celebrating rekindled friendships recognizes that one aspect of school is coming back for many kids via in-person learning. But ads that promise a complete return to the way things were before the pandemic risk coming across as tone deaf. Consider the Pop-Tarts campaign that celebrates fun—in the Now.
  • Use digital wisely to appeal to the digital generation. As Dick’s Sporting Goods shows, relying on TikTok is a smart play that will reach teens and inject a sense of fun that we don’t always associate with back-to-school.
  • Finally, even as you reach out to Gen Z for back-to-school, don’t neglect other demographics. Kohl’s wisely gives a tip of the hat to the parents who are helping to keep things stable during Covid—and beyond.

Contact True Interactive

Trying to figure out how to navigate this not-quite-post-Covid era in digital? Contact us. We can help.

How Twitch Is Appealing to Advertisers

How Twitch Is Appealing to Advertisers

Advertising Gaming

Twitch, the popular streaming site owned by Amazon, is expanding marketing partnership opportunities beyond its competitive esports channel, Twitch Rivals. The gaming platform’s new Official Marketing Partner program creates branding opportunities for /twitchgaming, a Twitch channel dedicated to non-competitive gaming. Already Chipotle and Ally Financial have signed up. Does it make sense for your brand to join the party? Read on.

How Twitch Has Grown during the Pandemic — and Who Likes Twitch

Twitch has definitely enjoyed a growth spurt. The platform exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as gaming and streaming became reliable sources of entertainment in a world locked down against the virus. According to Ad Age, “Twitch has nearly doubled its daily visitors and minutes watched since the pandemic began.” That translates into an average of 30 million visitors daily — up from 17.5 million in 2020. This growth is good news for brands who want exposure. In January alone, according to Modern Retail, Twitch users devoured more than two billion hours of content.

Who are these viewers? Ad Age reports that almost half of Twitch users are 18 to 34 years old; 21 percent fall into the 13-to-17-year-old demographic. That’s a big piece of the Gen Z/Millennial pie. Lou Garate, the head of global sponsorship sales at Twitch, also notes that Twitch followers tend to be online loyalists who seek nearly all their entertainment online, making them hard to reach via more traditional advertising channels.

Twitch Expands Marketing Opportunities

Given the elusive nature of that demographic, perhaps it was inevitable that Twitch would grow as a branding destination. At first, only brands with a clearly defined tie to gaming tested the waters: headphone companies like Hyper X, for example, and energy drink brands like Red Bull and Monster tested out promotion with campaigns that proved popular. Doritos also was in this vanguard, in 2018 sponsoring a Twitch competition called the Doritos Bowl.

But while headphones and snacks make perfect sense when it comes to partnering with a gaming platform, brands in other arenas are starting to explore how they might connect with Twitch users. Understanding that Twitch actually supports an increasingly diverse array of niche communities has been key. Chess, for example, is popular on the platform. So is anime.

As a result, any number of brands are starting to think about partnering with Twitch. Consider Lexus, which in January recruited the Twitch community to create a custom version of its 2021 IS sedan. Twitch streamer Fuslie hosted a livestream in which viewers could vote on modifications to the car, including gaming consoles and car wrap; more than half a million viewers showed up. A second livestream on February 17 disclosed the car’s design.

Brands like Chipotle have certainly seemed to do their homework in order to find a home on Twitch. According to a 60,000-person user panel called the Twitch Research Power Group, a whopping 97 percent of Twitch users eat at quick service restaurants — 57 percent of them on a weekly basis. In addition, arbiters like McKinsey & Company have identified Gen Z (a significant percentage of the Twitch audience, as noted above) as the “True Gen,” a generation dedicated to, among other things, ethical concerns. Chipotle speaks to these factors in a Twitch campaign that reaches out to Gen Z in particular in a meaningful way. As Ad Age reports, Chipotle will in coming months sponsor custom segments in /twitchgaming show The Weekly, including a “Chipotle Build Your Own PC” segment in which guests build their own PCs —much as customers build custom burritos at Chipotle. After the segment, Twitch and Chipotle will give the equipment to a nonprofit.

Twitch’s expanded Marketing Partners Program

Let’s take a closer look at the new Official Marketing Partner program. The Chipotle campaign is part of this effort, which essentially has meant Twitch opening up sponsorship opportunities on its /twitchgaming channel. “With the launch of this new Official Marketing Partner program, we’re taking a unique approach in sponsoring non-competitive content, to reach a new audience of elusive gaming enthusiasts on /twitchgaming,” Garate explains. The new program demonstrates Twitch’s desire to work with brands and connect them with gamers across the platform — not just those interested in Twitch Rivals’ esports content.

What Brands Should Do

 Interested in exploring opportunities to partner with Twitch? We recommend the following:

  • Understand your audience. As noted above, the demographic skews young, and they don’t necessarily respond to traditional advertising. Take a page from Chipotle’s book and get to know the Twitch audience — and how to speak their language.
  • Understand the nuances of Twitch. As Jamin Warren, the founder of the gaming-focused consultancy Twofivesix, notes, “Of all the platforms that we look at, Twitch is really one of the most interesting, and it’s the most complicated as well.” One reason? Part of Twitch’s draw stems directly from the appeal of its streamers. Brands launching channels must find authentic, identifiable streamers to run their accounts. Otherwise, they may find themselves speaking into the void.

Brands also need to get comfortable with the nature of this beast: livestreams are by definition hard to script, and the best content tends to be spontaneous. Maintaining that spontaneity while keeping things from going off the rails can be an art — and one that brands need to learn in order to thrive on Twitch.

Contact True Interactive

Does it make sense for your brand to reach out to the Twitch audience? Contact us. We can advise.