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Focus needs to move from eyeballs to mindshare for brands to use gaming effectively: AnimationXpress' dentsu MGEN Summit

There is an increased realisation on understanding consumers.

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Mumbai: At a session at AnimationXpress' dentsu MGEN Summit that looked at how brands can tell stories through gaming as a medium, several points were made. One is that lots of work needs to be done for brands to use gaming effectively in a digital marketer’s strategy. While there are some examples, like Reliance Games' use of 'Little Singham,' there are few. But at the same time, advertisers and agencies have to do a better job when it comes to leveraging games to tell stories. Also, because one has a highly immersed audience, one should look at gaming as a marketing medium and not an advertising medium. Gaming does allow for hyper-segmentation of the audience. It is up to brands to improve their storytelling on gaming platforms.

The speakers were Nestle India marketing manager Soumya Bhatia, Indicold founder Kartik Jalan, InMobi director products & business systems Vijay Vishnu, Carat India vice president Megha Nair, and Reliance Games senior vice president Ninad Chhaya. The moderator was AnimationXpress.com founder, CEO & editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari.

Chhaya admitted that his company is failing when it comes to persuading brands and agencies to invest in gaming. Globally, gaming has been massive, and revenues are much higher than those from movies and music combined. His company was one of the first companies to start gaming. Now there is an effort being made to create awareness among brands and marketers. The good news is that brands and marketers are becoming more aware of the power of gaming. The challenge for him is that Indian marketers are still catching up with web 2.0 in terms of social media. A paradigm shift needs to happen to move from eyeballs to minds. That is what gaming delivers. He added that gaming is part of a digital marketer’s strategy and is not a checkbox on innovation.

Bhatia conceded that gaming will unlock a demographic that currently web 2.0 is doing. However, in the future, since the media mix is going to change, web 2.0 will not unlock this demographic. But the challenge is that marketing is a science. Every medium solves a marketing problem. What gaming will unlock for brands is not clear yet. What do brands say? Understanding the language is a challenge. That is not the case on TV or with social media, where brands know what to say and how to say it. She disagreed with Chhaya and said that gaming is still a checkbox because there are restrictions and limitations on what it can do for brands.

Nair said that brands understand where consumers are going. It is not fair to suggest that agencies are not doing much about gaming as a media vehicle. Following the pandemic, there is a greater awareness of the importance of understanding consumers, both male and female. So gaming is not part of a checkbox. She stressed that it is part of the media mix at dentsu. There are multiple examples at dentsu Gaming where brands have used gaming as a medium effectively. She gave the example of ACCA, which works in the area of financial qualification. A web-based game was created. As a result, a lot of consumers became aware of ACCA, and a lot of them got on board with it.

Nair revealed, "dentsu Gaming is creating opportunities for a lot of brands." She also pointed out that there need not be a bifurcation in terms of how endemic and non endemic brands can look at this space. "The way it should be looked at is essentially what the objective is. If a brand just wants awareness and eyeballs, then web 2.0 is the place to be. Web 3.0 will increase engagement from a storytelling standpoint. There is so much more that can be done with a connection to the user. The ecosystem needs to be better," she said.

When asked if, after 20 years in the network, his company has not yet built an ecosystem in which brands can participate, Chhaya responded that the company has built an ecosystem, but perhaps not to the scale that it could be. The challenge is to work with agencies and brands to make an integrated marketing plan. He mentioned doing work with 'Little Singham,' which is one of the biggest IPs in the casual gaming space. Hershey's integrated its Jolly Ranchers Lollipop brand into it. An average game session lasts seven minutes. There are three sessions amounting to 21 minutes. There is time to tell stories. In comparison to a print ad or a 30-second YouTube video of a TV commercial, 'Little Singham,' you can see that kids enjoy gaming. So it is leveraged to tell a brand story. There have to be more conversations with brands to tell them that this is 21 minutes of a kid's mindshare. He also stressed that gaming is not just about eyeballs. Kids play the game day in and day out. 

One tie-up that the United Nations Environment Programme did with Little Singham was to create awareness about plastic pollution. Kids were being educated not to dispose of plastic bottles in a careless manner. So there is a need for brands, agencies, and gaming companies to work together to come up with unique storytelling ideas.

At the session, it was noted that while brands want eyeballs and ROI, they have to realise that gamers are a very immersed audience. Compared to that, when one watches a news channel, one's attention is dispersed. When the pandemic set in, gaming was integrated by InMobi on Glance's feed. The result was a 2X growth in engagement on the platform. Bhatia made the point that in gaming, one needs to look at it as a marketer, not an advertiser. "You have a consumer who may be immersed for 21 minutes in a day. The aim is to engage with the audience in a way that brings my brand alive," she emphasised.

Gaming, she noted, allows the opportunity for brands to build a lasting relationship with consumers. It is about having consumers interact with one's brand. The session also noted that gaming has to be looked at with a different mindset by brands and agencies.

Another point made during the session was that the personality of the game itself is important. There are many categories of games, like first-person shooter games. For instance, there is Candycrush, but not every brand wants to have the same personality as Candycrush. Brands must approach games as if they were a platform, or even a celebrity. Why does a brand engage a Bollywood star for an endorsement deal? It is because that star has a certain personality, and the brand shares those personality traits. The same approach should be adopted for gaming. Go for gaming if a game fits the brand. Do not force yourself to fit. A brand needs to add value for the game's users, the panellists concluded.

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