The industry at large has focused on the shift in viewership from linear TV to CTV with good reason. “Not only are CTV households expected to grow to 82 percent by 2023, but cord-cutter and cord-never households are also expected to increase to 44 percent of the population during the same period,” according to Innovid’s The State of Connected TV Report.
Meanwhile, linear TV watchers continue to decline. According to eMarketer, “After declines in the number of adult TV viewers accelerated from 2018 (-2.3%) to 2019 (-3.9%) to 2020 (-4.7%),we forecast another 2.4% drop this year, and fewer than 200 million adults will be regular TV watchers in 2021 (199.2 million).”
This trend is creating a significant shift in media consumption behaviors that the industry must understand in order to continue to resonate with consumers. People want to be in control of their content experience: They want to play the content they select on the platform they choose (mobile, PC, console/streaming device), and even the time they want to watch it!
Consumers expect to be in control to play the content they want.
We have seen this exact trend before in other channels that have grown significantly over the years. The growth of user generated content, such as search and social platforms, all provided that sense of control over how the content was consumed.
In search, the user is in control by typing in the keywords that produce the content experience in the form of search results. Social media platforms exploded with growth when users could control their own content environments, inviting both friends and corporations to contribute to this narrative. User generated content is the ultimate form of control, where content creators can develop the content experience and mandate their platforms for distribution and communication with their viewers.
The biggest content experience where the consumer is in control is video gaming.
Since its inception, video games have always been a significant channel in entertainment and their growth potential shows no signs of slowing down. By 2023, NewZoo forecasts there will be over three billion gamers globally. In the US, 75%of all households have at least one person who plays video games and 64% of adults are considered gamers, according to the 2020 Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry. The research for 2020 continues to point out that, “an entire generation of adults grew up on computers and smartphones. Even for those who didn’t, video games have become a natural part of their lives and their children’s lives.”
The facts are clear: Household penetration of video game play is already upon the industry. People expect to control their own form of play, and they are doing it at scale with video games.
The video game opportunity for advertisers presents itself in many form factors. The industry is starting to align that there are clear differences in advertising within video game live events, videogame streamers, and playing the game itself. Live events and streaming represent people watching people play games, a behavior similar to watching streaming video content. According to NewZoo, “The global games live-streaming audience will hit 728.8 million in 2021. This number of people watching livestreams of games will increase +10.0% from 2020. The audience will continue to grow to 920.3million by 2024, a CAGR of +9.2%.”
With 3 Billion gamers globally, there are many more people who directly play video games than there are people watching others play video games. People who play games are actively interacting with the game itself. Control of the game play is at the center of a gamer’s experience; after all, it’s called a game controller for a reason!
To win, advertisers must ensure their ads speak to environments where the consumer is in control of the content they play.
No matter the media, the creative must be authentic to the environment. Brands must show they respect the consumer by being authentic to each environment where the consumer is in control of the content they are playing. Being authentic means brands should develop messages that don’t disrupt the content played, understand the context of the placements and thus nuancing the message accordingly.
Don’t disrupt play. Consumers don’t like any of their content disrupted, whether they are watching their favorite show, seeing their favorite social media celeb stream on Twitch, or playing their favorite game. Make sure the ad units you are buying fully consider whether the consumer is being disrupted or if the ad can naturally or intrinsically be placed within the environment.
Get the message right. Even if you do a great job ensuring the ad unit is naturally or intrinsically placed in the content, make sure the message is simple, authentic to the environment, and considers the interaction of the consumer. In a game, for example, players are moving around in the environment. In this case, advertisers need to create placements that have a clear hero image or logo, few words, and resonate with the player in control of the game.
Understand context. When consumers are in control of the content they play, we need to understand their mindset. Why are they playing the content? Are they trying to learn? Are they trying to relax? Are they being social? Understanding the context of the content played should inform the value of the media placement and its ability to break through in that moment. Can the brand add more realism, fun, or information to the scene? Is the brand adding value to that moment?
Brands will win when they respect consumers who play
The big shift has already happened where the consumer is in control of the content they play. Brands that show they respect the consumer by being authentic to each environment where the consumer is in control of the content they are playing will win.
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