How to tap the gaming market

Having long found it hard to reach this sought-after audience, are agencies finally getting their game on?

par Mark Tungate , Adforum

Gamers should be gold dust for agencies, since they’re young, often have a chunk of disposable income, and are susceptible to brands. Yet traditional agencies have mostly been either slow or ham-fisted when it comes to reaching them. Don’t take our word for it: London-based BBH admits as much in its recent report The Ignored Giant. Read the full report here.

The report describes gaming as “the biggest untapped creative opportunity in marketing”, pointing out that it makes more than US$134 billion a year worldwide – more than the music and movie industries combined. For a vast number of people, games are as compulsive as Game Of Thrones or the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And yet until recently, many agency folk dismissed gaming as an acne-prone subculture with only niche appeal. Not surprisingly, a number of specialist agencies swept in to fill the vacuum, such as Upfluencer, Swipe Right and Paris-based Hurrah, the first dedicated esports agency (co-founded by a pal of ours, the journalist Angela Natividad).

Not that all advertisers have been blind to the appeal of gaming. Way back in 2003, the fashion brand Diesel actually outfitted characters in the game Devil May Cry 2 in its clothes. The response from gamers was mixed, but it has to be said that the brand was visionary.

More recently, we’ve noted a number of cases that appear to get the tricky relationship with gamers right. Starting with a couple of winners from last years’ Epica Awards, both from McCann London.

The first, Football Decoded, used the design of the Xbox itself to create a new language based on football moves.

The second, The Fanchise Model, allowed players to design their own custom consoles and sell them online for a profit. 


The campaigns work by because they respect and motivate gamers. Speaking at an Epica event recently, the ECDs behind both projects, Sanjiv Mistry and Jamie Mietz, observed that if gamers like your idea, they’ll support it to the hilt, but if the opposite is the case then you can run and hide.

Staying with McCann London and Xbox for a moment, our eye was caught by this new tourism ad that turns out to be something very different. The visual pun cleverly expresses the immersive – and therefore addictive – quality of the gaming universe.

But what happens when you venture off the gamers’ territory to bring an external brand into the mix? In another recent campaign, We Are Social teamed up with WWF and the massively popular Fortnite game to launch the #NoBuildChallenge. As a comment on the world’s dwindling resources, it defied players to play without using wood, stone or metal – materials that are usually integral to surviving the game.

As you may know, gaming is also a spectator sport. Happiness Brussels targeted players on behalf of telecom company VOO by touching their most vulnerable nerve: the perils of a sluggish.

Finally, here’s an idea that combines contemporary and retro in a way gamers love: the Hyperkin Smartboy, a console that turns your phone into a Gameboy. We’ll leave it to an expert to tell you how that works.

So what are the key takeaways from above? To sum up, what you’ll need when targeting gamers are insider knowledge, respect, empathy, and ideas that challenge, enthuse or empower your audience. Over to you.