As Viewability Evolves Into an Enabler for Attention, Gaming Is Leading the Way

Gaming offers the high attention medium to meet billions of consumers and directly engage with them in ways other formats just can’t

By Lewis Hadley, VP Marketing, Bidstack

The concept of attention – and its relationship with viewability – can cause confusion and debate among advertisers. Some mistakenly portray attention as a replacement for viewability, while others seem content to turn a blind eye to it entirely until it’s standardised across the industry. Both of these stances are flawed. Attention is without a doubt the future of advertising measurement and advertisers need to get to grips with it now; but viewability will remain a vital factor in enabling attention.

Advertisers have certainly become accustomed to evidencing the success of campaigns with viewability. It’s a reassuringly straightforward metric: Was this ad able to be seen, yes or no? Simpler times. But in recent years, leading advertising companies have been pioneering ways to measure attention, i.e. establish that an ad was not only able to be seen, but that it was seen, and that it had an impact on the viewer.

One prominent academic claims that we only spend 47 seconds on any given screen before switching our focus to another, meaning getting a handle on attention is not just desirable but absolutely necessary in an era where we’re bombarded by between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. A study by IPG Media Lab found that 29% of viewable TV commercials, often perceived as the gold standard for reaching consumers at scale, aren’t actually seen by viewers, while another shows that audiences are four times more likely to change channels or divert their attention to another device during ad slots. Astonishingly, Lumen Research data shows that only 30% of the viewable digital ads we are exposed to are actually ever seen.

Basically, the lights are on for your big ad campaign, but nobody’s home. So where is everyone and, more importantly, what’s grabbed their attention?

Attention-grabbing games

Increasingly, gaming is one of the environments that holds real, active attention, making it an ideal media channel for our attention recession. Where TV, YouTube and other VOD platforms offer amazing content, the consumption of it is largely passive. Gaming on the other hand is an active entertainment medium, requiring players to take action themselves to make things happen (which also means it warrants its own viewability and attention guidelines to account for its non-linear nature).

With a kaleidoscope of gaming content from idle and hypercasual mobile games to competitive PC and console titles all requiring different levels of time commitment and focused attention, this is a great starting point for delivering meaningful engagement for ads served within the content. Many gaming environments lend themselves naturally to native advertising on pre-existing placements within the game, meaning they can not only deliver engagement without disrupting the user experience, but while users are actively enjoying themselves.

Data from Newzoo suggests that U.S. consumers already spend almost as long gaming (11.8 hours a week) as they do on social media (13.1 hours) and watching TV (13.9 hours). Meanwhile, GenZ actually spend more time in video games and virtual worlds (12.2 hours per week) than they do watching broadcast TV or subscription services. And again, that’s being actively rather than passively engaged in the experience.

Data suggests that U.S. advertising revenue in games (including esports) hit $8.6 billion in 2022, a rise of 7% year-over-year. That increase comes despite global games market revenue from consumer spending declining by 4.3% year-over-year to $184.4 billion last year. Gaming’s ability to reach engaged, diverse audiences at scale and often more cost-effectively than other mediums is beginning to resonate. What’s more, it’s been proven time and again that mobile game players in particular actively appreciate the value exchange provided by advertising content such as intrinsic in-game and rewarded video, which enables them to access gaming content for free.

Untapped potential

I say gaming as a media channel is beginning to resonate because advertising spend in the sector is still dwarfed by TV, social media and online videos. eMarketer reports that in 2022, TV accrued $67.6 billion of ad spend in the U.S. – nearly 8x higher than games. There are dozens of reasons for this, including legacy perceptions of who ‘gamers’ are. Ultimately, gaming has needed time to mature as a media channel and, with IAB and MRC guidelines now in place and familiar ways of transacting and measuring available, the gaming media channel has moved from childhood to adolescence.

Many of the same audiences that engage with TV and social media are present in games, a space where attention easily eclipses other mediums. Meanwhile, through interactive experiences, gaming offers myriad ways to track attention beyond just simple views. Advertisers can also use a variety of ad formats from playable ads to rewarded video that capture attention while retaining the intended user experience.

In particular, intrinsic in-game ads offer a new opportunity to advertise to players in a less intrusive, more organic manner, while being exposed to the user for a longer period. Rather than a 30 second ad that players might try to skip or simply not watch, in-game ads can be present throughout and ‘intrinsic’ to the experience, built into its very fabric, for constant re-engagement. Examples can include race track billboards and pitch side advertising boards in sports games, and even branded vehicles and wearables.

Contextual advertising

The games market offers an enormous, relatively untapped audience for brands to advertise to, where players are proven to be highly engaged and willing to watch ads. Games offer the perfect environment for attention metrics to evolve far above and beyond viewability, driving greater and continued engagement with ads, helping to improve brand awareness and familiarity. And through in-game ads, they don’t have to be an intrusive part of the experience either, but can be placed in a context that makes sense to the player.

By utilising attention metrics to gauge how successful an advertisement has been, brands can get a lot more insight into which ads are the most successful. This can spark much more engaging and satisfying experiences, ultimately leading to what advertisers really want most of all: brand uplift and ROI.

About the Author

A dynamic and creative marketer with over 15 years of international experience, Lewis oversees Bidstack’s digital marketing, brand development, corporate communications and strategic marketing. Having joined the company in 2018, he played a significant role in redefining Bidstack’s brand identity and messaging as the business pivoted fully into gaming, and continues to be a key driver of Bidstack’s ambitious growth plans.