Gaming: Levelling Up Your Brand In The Cookie-Less Future

pac man game board

By Paul Lowrey, Director of Strategy, Insight, and Marketing at Azerion UK

With so much focus on how to establish and target audiences in a cookie-less advertising landscape, much of the attention has centered on the power of publishers and their communities of engaged and authenticated audiences. However, there is another area that is fast becoming a part of this conversation; gaming.

Gaming provides an exciting proposition for brands to speak with a community of highly engaged users. It also provides brands with a range of different activations, from programmatic in-game advertising to weaving brands into the fabric of the game itself. But as this is a new environment for many brands it does need to be carefully managed. For one, it requires a change in perceived mindset for many brand owners; as gaming’s influence now goes way beyond the traditional realms of Xbox and PlayStation. The gaming universe covers everything from this to people playing brain training games or simple strategy games on their phones or tablets.

The gaming demographic has always been broad, but lockdowns have changed that even further. Today, gaming platforms provide a surprisingly diverse data set, with 62% of UK adults now avid game players. On top of this, research by consultancy firm Simon-Kucher found that the gender split in gaming globally is almost equal: men 54%, women 46%. In mobile this is actually skewed more towards women (63%). And from an age demographic there are now as many players over the age of 45 as there are below that age. These diverse data sets now enable advertisers to gain further insights into relevant audiences, allowing them to refine their targeting strategies to increase engagement and build their brands in a post-cookie landscape.


As an industry, more is now known about the gaming audience than ever before. With the upcoming demise of the third-party cookie quickly approaching, it has made gaming audiences more accessible and valuable to advertisers as they step into this new era.

Gaming is changing the advertising space

The reality is that gaming does offer brands a way to engage with a broad target market, even in a cookieless landscape, but many advertisers are only just starting to understand the breadth of this opportunity. If done properly, ads placed either in or around a game have the potential to be related to the user experience and be complementary in terms of the way messages are woven around the game. With gaming being such a strongly immersive experience, you have a guaranteed attentive and engaged audience – whether they’re in a gaming room or commuting to work.

Of course, as with any other media channel, if it’s done badly all these benefits can be undermined and the content can be seen as an interruption. This is why brands need to be looking to develop a comprehensive and cohesive gaming strategy. Understanding the audiences and the opportunities is tough for those just starting off in the gaming sector, so to manage that, advertisers need to work alongside a partner that can help them unpick the landscape. This is one of the key drivers behind why we’re seeing media agencies increasingly opening up specialist gaming divisions to interrogate this vast landscape and simplify it into a presentable and valuable offering for their clients.

Measurement is still a challenge in the industry

As a welcome side effect of the growing number of outlets in the gaming sector looking to get a slice of advertising budgets, measurement is improving. As an analogy, there’s a reason that advertisers are still investing in TV after 60 odd years despite the challenges from digital. This is because there’s so much data and history about how it works and how effective it is. The gaming industry is aware of this and knows it is an area where it has had to improve. As a result, it has been investing heavily into understanding this sector – now being able to measure the impact on areas like brand performance, brand uplift and providing brand hygiene KPI factors that many clients demand. This is enabling agencies and game owners to provide advertisers with the assurance that not only is gaming effective, but it is actually going to be safe as well.

When it comes to impact, creative is everything

Another key area where brands need to focus if they are going to maximise the impact of gaming as an advertising channel is in creative. As we saw in the early days of digital advertising, brands are not going to be creating effective campaigns if they are simply re-using creative from print ads or dumping their 30-second TV slot video into a gaming environment. Over the past 18 months, we have seen a shift from brands in this respect, with a distinct move towards providing specific creative designed to go into gaming environments.

In the past, the gaming sector has managed to position itself as an opportunity by numbers, and while the numbers are impressive that focus is now shifting to creating an opportunity by its audience. While there is still work to be done in terms of educating the market around targeting audience profiles, specialist agencies are making serious inroads in this area and can help brands build out highly effective campaigns – so the opportunities for advertisers are huge. As we do move into a cookie-less world, advertisers should definitely be considering gaming as a crucial part of their armoury when they are looking to engage with the audiences they need to build their brands.