Gaming gets its own media upfront, the IAB PlayFronts

Every Spring, marketers begin to plan media and advertising budgets for the upcoming year. Meanwhile, traditional entertainment networks and digital publishers finalize lavish presentations for their annual upfronts and digital-focused newfronts. These glitzy events hype up the year’s upcoming new content with the goal of locking in maximum advertising dollars. This year, the gaming industry took major steps to secure big-ticket advertiser commitments with their own industry showcase, the first annual  IAB PlayFronts, which took place on April 5 in New York City.  

Through long-standing ad supported mobile app platforms, sponsorship integrations in free-to-play games like Fortnite, and likely support for new ad platforms on in-demand home consoles, the continued booming growth of gaming is creating more opportunities for advertisers to reach audiences. Combine that with sponsorship opportunities in the esports ecosystem and it’s clear that gaming has earned a rightful place at the table as a media force to be reckoned with.  

Almost 700 people were reported to be in attendance, including professionals from agencies, publishers, entertainment networks, gaming studios, ad tech and data companies. Panels throughout the day presented captivating examples of partnerships between brands and platforms, backed by plenty of data on the explosive growth in consumer usage, time spent, and revenue. Some of the topics discussed included: 

  • Advances in targeting, attribution, and more meaningful enhancements to KPIs such as Frameplay’s “ITV” or Intrinsic Time-in View ad measurement
  • Niantic (creators of PokemonGO) discussed the current state and future of AR (augmented reality) as an engaging and creative branding and sales tool 
  • American Eagle touted their entrance into the “Metaverse” via a partnership with Roblox 
  • Monetization platform AdMix discussed the future of Web3.0 and new ways to monetize engagement, as well as the Web’s progression from “Read / Write / Share,” to Web3’s blockchain infrastructure of “Issue / Own / Create” 
  • Development platform Unity and monetization platform BidStack discussed the potential for in-game advertising and integrations, the emergence of 3D and VR, and the importance of creating continuity in these experiences through the user/consumer journey.
  • Riot Games highlighted the power and massive reach of large scale gaming events, and the importance of authenticity when speaking to such a passionate audience – passion exemplified by League of Legends World Championships tune-in, where an average 31 million people were watching at any given minute!
  • Twitch further explored the power in numbers, sharing that 2.5 million people are on Twitch at any given moment, posting 200 million chats per day. Apparently, Twitch users spent 1.3 TRILLION minutes on the platform in 2021 
  • NBCU discussed their partnership with Anzu, opening opportunities to Anzu’s catalog of games and in-game advertising to the NBCU audience universe 

This inaugural event had been long anticipated – and the excitement in the room was palpable.  As the library of successful case studies expands, gaming’s popularity among traditional marketers will continue to grow. Expect gaming’s diverse platforms to become an integral part of more marketers’ media planning mixes, offering creative solutions to reach both broad and niche audiences effectively.