Gaming Is All About Joy and Emotional Connections

Gaming Is All About Joy and Emotional Connections 1

What an IAB PlayFronts 2024 it was! Two days packed with insights, announcements, and a lot of fun! That’s the thing about gaming – it is fun. For those of you who attended ALM in January, you may recall that IAB CEO, David Cohen, talked about bringing joy back. Bringing joy back into our lives at work and at home. Since the pandemic, Americans are significantly less happy. According to Gallup, when Americans were surveyed on 29 metrics that drive a “satisfaction/happiness factor,” American happiness dropped from 48% to 41% pre versus post pandemic. And we have not clawed our way back to happiness yet. But I’m here to assert that GAMING can bring happiness back to America.

How can gaming help Americans ascend the happiness ladder? We heard from Zoe Soon, VP, Experience Center, IAB, that gaming is for anyone and everyone. She spoke about gaming being “Entertainment Plus.” It’s in the “pluses” that we can take back control of our happiness. Gaming allows us to build community and enhance social connections, to relax and be creative, to feel successful through achievements. All of these are positive emotions associated with gaming. Games make us feel. And what is a brand’s objective when advertising? Their objective is to make consumers feel positive emotions towards their brand. Emotions are linked to memory and recall. So, the more emotional connection a brand can make with its audience, the more positive brand outcomes can be expected.

Games are mass entertainment targeted to niche audiences. There is a game for everyone. There are 213 million gamers in the U.S. – but that number may not break down as you would expect. 19% of gamers are under 18 years old, 12% are 18-24, 18% are 25-34 (the largest 10-year age block demographic), and over half (51%) are 35+. And when we look at male / female breakouts, 46% of gamers are female. Gamers are not all smelly teenage boys in their basements.

People play different types of games to illicit different types of emotions. Immersive console and PC games can take the user deep into fantasy worlds filled with escapism, and challenges that lift players from the harsh reality of their daily lives and transplant them into a world where they are in control. A world filled with friends, known and unknown, enables them to create the social connections they crave. There are adventures for every taste and there are targeting techniques that allow brands to be part of any world that is the best fit for them. Many of the targeting tools like first-party data matching and contextual targeting can be applied to gaming environments. Therefore, gaming is a brand safe environment where a brand can have total control over their placements and adjacencies.

On the casual gaming front, there are hundreds of games for every interest group. There are two mobile gamers for every PC/console gamer. So, when a brand wants to go mass, while maintaining targeting, casual gaming is an excellent choice. A person’s mobile device is their most personal gadget, and the casual gamer is always connected. A casual gamer does not mean a tepid gamer; on average casual gamers spend 13 hours a week gaming.

One of the biggest announcements at PlayFronts was made by PlayerWON who revealed their new partnership with chip maker NVIDIA that will launch a pre-roll ad product for cloud gaming that makes video game advertising look more like connected TV. These will be pre-game ads that are new to cloud gaming. The new formats also allow brands to use existing CTV creative in video games, creating efficiency and ease of execution. The same ad that ran in the Superbowl can now run in front of games on GeForce NOW (GFN). The ad unit allows cloud games to essentially function live free ad-supported TV (FAST) to make brands emotionally connected to the gamers because they are enabling the free version of an otherwise subscription game available through the cloud.

So, whether you are a PC, console or casual gamer, gaming and advertising in gaming offers up many opportunities to build emotional connections with consumers and help bring joy back into their lives. Remember, many gamers, especially 35+ cohort, may not identify themselves as gamers, but moms, commuters, workers on breaks play games too. And with all the new innovative targeting and execution opportunities, there is a game for every brand and a consumer for every game. Let’s play!



Pam Zucker
Chief Strategy Officer
at IAB