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Why are major agencies only now focusing on gaming?

Diva’s CEO and co-founder, Suzy Barnes, talks to The Campaign Podcast about the sudden upsurge in marketing agencies turning their attention towards video games

By Paul Weedon

10 Aug 2023 - 5 min read

Last week saw Diva CEO and co-founder, Suzy Barnes, making her audio debut on Campaign Magazine’s podcast [iTunes / Spotify]. Speaking with technology and gaming editor Coral Cripps she was joined by the global lead at Dentsu Gaming, Brent Koning, and global head of gaming at We Are Social, Rachel Rakowski, to talk about agencies taking their first tentative (and somewhat belated) steps into the gaming space.

“If you think about the fact that Barbie grossed $155m in the first three days at the box office, when we helped launch Call of Duty Modern Warfare III, it did $400m in 24 hours and that was back in 2011, so games has been a massive industry for a really long time,” Suzy tells the group. “People that are just waking up to the opportunities in games are quite far behind the curve from my point of view, so we really welcome other agencies getting involved in the space. We’re just surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”

A key topic for discussion was the importance of player insight, particularly when it comes to speaking directly to gamers who remain a notoriously tricky audience to pin down.

“It’s establishing what gamers want. They don’t necessarily want to have the fourth wall broken in terms of their in-game experience, by having advertisers interrupt that.”

If you’re familiar with what Diva does (if not - hi, get in touch), you’ll probably be aware that games aren’t exactly your traditional advertising space - especially when it comes to doing things in-game. Advertisers can’t expect to apply tried and tested methods when it comes to an interactive medium and just expect them to work, as Suzy explains.

“For in-game activations, they really need to augment the experience and therefore brands and agencies need to work really hard to make sure that their activations feel authentic to the community”.

So is this why other larger agencies have been slow on the uptake?

“Getting that right is a bit of a barrier to entry,” Suzy posits. “The available real estate in games for what you would consider to be normal advertising is not that huge. It’s not as huge as advertisers would like it to be, so you have to look at partnership activations. These tend to take time and they need consideration to make sure that they land and be well received within the ecosystem.”

As well as discussing the importance of a good creative brief - something that all agencies can relate to, whether they’re working in games or not - the conversation also turned to best practice examples in games marketing.

“There’s not a lot of good best practice and that can tend to be prohibitive,” Brent explains. “The errors are the rest of the industry pointing fingers at video games. The errors are highlighted in the headlines.”

Koning then kindly (and entirely unpromptedly, we should add) paid tribute to Diva’s involvement in the TFL x PS5 campaign, which he sees as a benchmark and one that the wider marketing community can learn from.

“The TFL x PlayStation launch was one of the best campaigns in the history of games and, honestly, you hear about some of the conundrums in PlayStation’s launch or Xbox One’s launch. It’s like, “Oh, they did this weird press conference wrong”. How come we’re not celebrating these fantastic wins in the marketplace that transcended video game go-to market launch for consoles and platform launches?”

With that in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that our peers are turning to the sector we’ve called home for the last decade and a half.

Be sure to check out the whole episode here.