Mobile Gamers Give Ads During Gameplay a Thumbs Down

unnamed-20 John McCrea is currently the CMO at MediaSpike, which provides a native monetization platform for applications, with a focus on social and mobile games. Prior to MediaSpike, McCrea was the Founder and GM of Tunerfish, a business unit of Comcast Interactive Media. The Makegood recently spoke with McCrea about a study done on the reaction mobile gamers have to ads during gameplay.

The Makegood: Based on the research conducted at MediaSpike, ads that integrate brands into actual gameplay are the most liked, whereas other ads perform far inferior. What does this say about consumers on mobile?

The formats that have (barely) worked on the desktop — little rectangles — really don’t work on the smaller screens of mobile devices. On mobile, especially, format matters.

The Makegood: Since gaming commands such a high level of focus and attention, what is the justification for having ads integrated into actual gameplay? How much attention are gamers giving these ads?

When a brand is integrated natively into actual gameplay, people see, interact with, and like the ad. We’re not talking about billboards on the sidelines; by native integration we mean something where racing on the branded car gives you greater speed, or the branded drink gives you energy. This type of advertising allows the brand to be a hero.

The Makegood: To what extent can in-game ads be interactive? Can the consumer be confident that his or her game will not be disrupted over a deceiving ad?

In-game ads, especially ones natively integrated into gameplay, can be highly interactive. And when that interactivity is user-initiated it is not a distraction from the game — it is part of the game.

The Makegood: Could you elaborate on the other types of gaming ads? Why have these ads failed to see the same results as ads integrated into the games?

When we looked at negative type of reactions, the format that was the least liked and least likely to be interacted with was “ads shown at breaks in gameplay”. This type of ad was more strongly disliked than even banner ads (by a factor of nearly 3:1). That might seem puzzling at first, since banner ads have not been particularly well liked since…well, since they were invented. We believe what’s going on here is that people are so focused on playing the game, that they have the most intense form of “banner blindness.” The reason they don’t strongly dislike banners is that they are quite good at tuning them out. Ads shown at breaks, on the other hand, especially ones that go full-screen, are much harder to ignore (and often quite difficult to dismiss). They are seen as something standing between the user and the content, not a welcome addition to the experience.

The Makegood: How do you see gaming ads progressing in the future? How will/can advertisers battle a consumer’s ability to purchase games without ads?

Mobile is the only medium that is growing. The number one activity on mobile is gaming. And the vast majority of games are free-to-play. That is creating the largest and fastest growing mass medium, ripe for advertising. We just need to pay close attention to what is working and what is not in order to create something that is win for brands, for game publishers, and, most important of all, for users.

The Makegood: Thank you, John.