PART 2 | Get into the Game: A simple framework to get your brand started

As the industry faces declines in linear TV, surges in ad-free entertainment, and increasingly fragmented user engagement, why do some brands and agencies still overlook one of the most obvious opportunities for audience engagement - gaming?

In this two-part deep dive, PHD strategy director Zac Kelly does more than just bang the drum of gaming as a valuable channel. He explores the various, often misunderstood, opportunities within the space and explains why ignoring these could spell game over for brands. 

Gaming may still seem like a foreign space for brands, but it presents a world of opportunity.  

This article forms the final part of our ‘Get into the game’ series. 

In Part I, we established that gaming is the 2nd most popular entertainment source in Aussie homes, but is also the most overlooked media moment by advertisers. We explored how in a world where almost everyone games, it’s no longer about asking whether your audience games, but rather, what type of gamer your target audience is. Finally, we discussed how gaming is an engine for modern pop culture and therefore relevant to all brands.  

So, we know brands and agencies should look at gaming as an important part of their modern media mix, but there is a problem. Entering gaming is not as easy as buying TARPs or CPMs, because the gaming landscape wasn’t made for ads. 

Below in Part II, we unpack the final misconception and showcase a simple framework to effectively get your brands into the game. 

Misconception #3: Gaming is too complex 

It is indeed true that gaming does not adhere to the standard conventions of traditional media channels.  

Originally, games were not designed with an advertising ecosystem in mind; their primary revenue streams were generated through sales.  

Unlike platforms such as TV or YouTube, gaming lacks a one-size-fits-all approach. It more resembles the diverse landscape of sports, spanning from podcasts to players.  

The question then arises: how can brands effectively communicate through gaming?

At PHD, we have distilled our approach into three distinct buckets that serve as a foundational guide for brands seeking to make an impact in gaming.

1. Be present: leverage gaming platforms and publishers from Twitch to PC Gamer; further amplify your impact by using contextual messages.

a. Red Bull is a standout example, seamlessly adapting their classic animated brand campaign “Red Bull Gives You Wiings” into always on gaming creative. No need to create a new campaign, just adapt your existing one into a gaming context. One watch out is to ensure you don’t lean on gaming tropes or stereotypes, this can be poorly received by gaming communities.

2. Tap into experts: forge a connection with gaming communities by engaging in partnerships with influencers or integrating into eSports events. This approach mirrors successful strategies employed in sports, but often leaves more room for creativity.

a. Mercedes, a premium car brand and unexpected player in this field, is one of my favourite examples. They built a connection with League of Legends Worlds and eSports event (notably a game which does not feature cars). After seeing success over the first two years, they have recently extended their partnership. Explore more here: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/art-and-culture/zeitgeist/esports/

3. Integrate with Gaming IP: develop an integrated partnership with a game/publisher that blends intellectual property (IP). This allows brands to establish a virtual presence while the game benefits from real-world icon leverage. It also provides a springboard for both to creatively communicate.

a. PHD Melbourne’s collaboration between ANZ and NBA 2k is a prime example, showcasing a highly successful campaign that drove action in the form of inquires from harder-to-engage youth audiences. Explore more here: https://livewire.group/case-studies/anz-bank-x-nba-2k/

In essence, these three buckets serve as a starting point, providing simple ways for your brands to engage in gaming. Identify which approach best suits how your brand can activate in gaming.

The examples above show gaming is not limited to specific brands; even unexpected brands with no direct category usage occasions, such as banks and premium cars, are benefiting.

Finally, you’ve decided you want to take the plunge.

Still, it can be hard to understand exactly how to get started.

Simply, start with your brand or product truth and identify where that can live in gaming.

Ask yourself three questions:


1. “What is the brand or product truth we will bring to life?” – brand opportunity

KFC – the secret recipes of KFC are home to the most famous meal combos such as the Zinger box meal.

Red Bull – Red Bull provides a kick of energy to keep you performing at your best.

2. “What area of gaming can we align too?” – subculture alignment

KFC – Street Fighter is the game known for combos and the new version allows you to create characters in game through a feature called “recipes”.

Red Bull – ingrain Red Bull in multiplayer streaming and competitive play where the contender audience thrive on being highly alert.

3. “How will my brand make an impact?” – captivating execution

KFC – bring the Colonel into SFVI and reward people with real KFC combos for fight combos made in game. Explore how they did it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz7VNvxbyss

Red Bull – own contextual placements around multiplayer shooters, MOBA’s and multiplayer competitions with creative that leverages competitive gaming iconography.

Be sure to leverage this strategic framework to define a way into gaming that is both fit for your brand and impactful.

Overall, gaming should be seriously considered by all brands. Especially the ones where gaming is a category consumption point like snacks, drinks, and food delivery.

In the end, if you are not getting into the game, you are missing out on a massive commercial opportunity and will be left behind by faster competitors. So why wait, get in the game today.

Zac Kelly is a strategy director at PHD.


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