The video game market is now as diverse and competitive as the food or clothing market. Video games help people distract themselves from reality, learn something new, socialize or assert themselves. It's hard to believe that the first video game was created more than 60 years ago and was needed to visualize the experience of playing ping-pong.

And back then it was just a display with an electron-beam tube that showed a side view of a tennis court, represented by two lines, one representing the ground and the other — the net, and the ball was just a dot that bounced back and forth; now games have become much more colorful and evolved. They got different formats: mobile games, computer games, VR games, and console games. And each of these formats allows you to place ads in games.

Over 40% of Generation Z and Millennials spend more time gaming

Ads in games are a topic of great concern to marketers around the world, as the gaming industry market is not stopping its growth, which began back in the 70s. And with the global pandemic of Covid-19, the gaming market has gained unprecedented popularity among almost all user groups.

Global trends have shown how isolation has increased the consumption of home media, especially mobile and PC games, mainly among the younger generation. For example, more than 40% of Generation Z and Millennials have increased their time playing mobile games during this time of crisis.

Even if you are far from the world of video games, you have probably heard something about Animal Crossing or Among Us. Or maybe one of your friends couldn't stop talking about "the huge gorgeous woman from Resident Evil Village".

In any case, people spend a lot of time playing games. According to a report from Statista, people spend the most time playing games in China: more than 12 hours a day on average. The global average ranges around 8 hours. That's as much as an adult needs to sleep, which is a very significant part of the day. And during that time, people can consume gaming advertising. And programmatic in-game advertising will help reach them.

time spending on games

Why you should invest in advertising in video game


The in-game advertising space is a great and universal platform for digital advertising and it's not yet as mainstream as social media or search advertising, so you'll at least increase your reach and brand awareness.


In addition, you can set up targeting for a wide variety of audiences. Stereotypically, gamers are seen as lonely and antisocial teenagers and men. However, this stereotype has long ceased to have any connection with reality (if it ever did).

First of all, those who were once teenagers obsessed with games have grown up and have children of their own (who most likely also play video games).

Second, the stereotype that games are an exclusively "male" hobby has been exaggerated from the beginning. Here you can see that a significant portion of users who identify themselves as women have always played games. And in 2022, already 48% of gamers in the U.S. are women.

gamers by gender

Video games are a great tool to appeal to any target audience. Multiplayer online games are gaining popularity and many gamers prefer to play with their partner or friends. And this opens up a huge opportunity for brands whose products are designed for this audience segment.


Just like any other programmatic advertising, programmatic gaming advertising allows you to optimize campaigns at any time. You can make changes to the ad campaign as soon as it launches. In addition, programmatic in-game ads have great settings for personalizing content, so you can address each user personally.

Collecting data for analysis

In-game advertising allows you to learn a lot about your potential customers. How much time they spend in a game, what games they prefer, what your customer's typical gaming profile is, etc. With this data, you can constantly improve your gaming advertising offers and increase the number of conversions.

What kind of ads is best for gamers: the rules of in-game advertising market

Gamers are sociable and quick to judge. Video games require an inquisitive and agile mind, as there is a constant need to make some decisions to move forward with the game. That's why gamers are one of the most active audiences on the Internet, they are used to acting always and everywhere.

Gamers are savvy and influential. According to an Anzu study, 51% of gamers give advice to others, and 47% influence others. 46% try to be the first to learn about new things, such as new technology and new fashions.

Video game advertising allows you to reach an influential gaming target audience in an evolving industry. And gamers have buying power; those who play more than 10 hours a week have twice as much disposable income as non-gaming players.

Many marketers, after reading a few articles about in-game advertising, dive headfirst into it, hoping to find a treasure chest or at the very least gather precious pearls in a fruitful place. However, not everyone thinks that advertising in the gaming industry has its own characteristics and the way gamers think and their habits are not just worth taking into account, they need to work with them very carefully and attentively.

For example, many advertisers focus exclusively on in-game ads, forgetting that there is also an out-of-game community — that means, the same gamers, but the gaming advertising aimed at them not inside the game, but on a different, more familiar platform.

Brands often cooperate with game developers, but it can be unprofitable just to put their logo or advertising banner in the game, so variants of combining in-game ads and out-of-game advertising campaigns are being developed.

For example, the player can participate in a game event sponsored by a certain brand and be rewarded with, let's say, a discount coupon for products of that brand. This increases the player's involvement and motivation to use the products of a particular brand.

However, when developing such advertising campaigns, you should remember a few important rules:

  • Gamers are very appreciative when advertisers use local gaming memes in their in-game advertising campaigns. But you should definitely consult with the gaming community because a meme used in the wrong context can ruin the whole campaign;
  • As we have already said, gamers are inquisitive people, and they appreciate the campaigns' openness and transparency. You should not write additional terms and conditions of the ad campaign in very small print, it is better to lay out everything at once;
  • Avoid clerical language. Game developers are terribly creative people, so gamers are extremely spoiled with interesting solutions and concepts in games. This adds to the work of marketers, having to keep a creative frame and prove to users that they can do something too.

All in all, gamers can be hard to get along with, but if you do, they'll be your most active allies.

Where to launch an advertising campaign

The virtual world of video games is huge and it's difficult and very expensive to cover it all in a single advertising campaign, so many marketers wonder which gaming device to target. Of course, it all depends on the users you're targeting; it's important to do an audience analysis before launching a campaign.

However, if you need a universal tool to attract customers or a way to increase brand awareness, then mobile is undoubtedly the best choice.

Mobile gaming is growing as fast or even faster than PC or console gaming. People are playing on their way to work, when they are bored waiting to meet friends at a coffee shop, on their lunch breaks, etc. Being able to take your smartphone anywhere opens up a huge potential for mobile gameplay, as gaming is a good way to kill time or occupy yourself with something while waiting.

mobile gaming worldwide statistics

In addition, many popular PC games are optimized for mobile game versions. Sometimes this can affect the usability of the gameplay, but it doesn't stop fans who want to have the game with them everywhere.

So it turns out that a huge percentage of players mostly use smartphones to access online video games. To be precise, in a 2022 survey, 70% of gamers in the United States said they use a smartphone to access video games. The second and third most popular were PCs and game consoles, correspondingly.

Therefore, one of the most universal and profitable options will be in-game advertising on mobile devices. You can learn more about trends and the most popular games of 2022-2030 here.

Types of in-game advertising

Static in-game advertising

Static advertising is programmed directly into the game during the development phase. Ads in static in-game ads cannot be changed. Like product placement in a movie or music video, static ads often appear on billboards or signs. Considering the fact that these gaming ads cannot be changed, they are not as popular as dynamic ads.

However, static in-game ads or gaming product placement continue to rise because new iterations of previously released games provide more options for customizing them. Static ads are expected to generate $6,365.3 million in revenue by 2028.

Dynamic in-game advertising

Dynamic ads are banners displayed in-game that can be updated in real time. Dynamic in-game advertisements give advertisers greater flexibility and easy scalability. It can also be used to geo-target users who have subscribed to the newsletter.

Formats of in-game advertising

Video ads

The video ad format is one of the most successful in any media, but in the gaming space it takes on a very special format.

In-game video

These are gaming ads that the user sees before loading the game or between levels. Usually, some of these ads can be skipped, but some of them must be seen. Such ads have an excellent view rate, but not a very high conversion rate. Suitable for brand awareness campaigns.

Video with a reward

In this format, the player often chooses whether to watch the promotional video or not, but if they choose to watch, they can get rewards in the format of in-game resources.

This advertising format is very popular among developers, as it doesn't distract the user from the gameplay; however, it increases their involvement in the gameplay and improves the gaming experience.

According to statistics from ironSource, reward videos motivate players 6 times more often to make in-app purchases. And another 76% of mobile gamers in the U.S. prefer video ads with rewards over banner ads.

Playable video

Playable ads are usually presented as teaser videos that demonstrate the features and gameplay of a game app. This preview allows the user to understand whether they need to download a particular app, and due to its interactivity the ads are not annoying and increase the user's engagement level.

This approach helps to reduce the ratio of app deletions to installs and increase retention.

Native ads

Like regular native ads, in-game native ads are tailored to the interface and embedded in the game structure itself. It is unobtrusive enough to avoid annoying players, but it is also quite efficient, because it essentially serves the functions of banner advertising, but more effectively.

Coverage and time of display are important indicators for such advertising.

Audio ads

A lot of users prefer to listen to their favorite playlists or podcasts instead of in-game music while they play themselves.

Many gaming consoles now have the Spotify music streaming app pre-installed. So if you set up gaming ads on the console, but through Spotify, that's just the kind of out-of-game ads you get.

This is a very familiar advertising format for all marketers, and, of course, in the mobile gaming industry, they are also present.

Block banners

These are small rectangular banners that are placed at the bottom or top of the screen. These gaming ad units usually do not interact with the gameplay and in the course of the game changes in the background. When choosing this type of advertising, it is important to pay attention to the time of the display banner, as the user needs time to distract from the game and pay attention to advertising.

Cross-page banners

These are banners that unfold to the whole screen in different transitional moments of the game, when reaching a new level or changing location, for example.

Such banners are pop-up ads and they can be closed (sometimes they can be closed only after a certain time). They are also a good option for in-game advertising because the user will see your gaming ads anyway.

How to launch in-game ads

To launch in-game advertising, you can contact the developers directly and put ads in the game's interface at the development stage, as Barack Obama did, for example, to promote his election campaign in 2008 and 2013.

You can also perform advergaming, which means sponsoring a game that will consist entirely of symbols or products of your brand. This is a very interesting but extremely expensive strategy.

advergaming ads

However, the easiest and fastest way to run in-game advertising would be to turn to the Demand Side Platform (DSP). This is a programmatic advertising platform that allows advertisers to place their ads and set up the desired target audience and channels, and the system itself selects suitable publishers and the time of display ads that match the time of activity of an advertiser's interested user.

how dsp works

Bottom Line

Video game advertising is just a crazy perspective because the video game market is one of the continually and strongly growing ones. Today, in-game advertising allows you to reach a wide variety of users and takes many different forms and formats. With its help, you can achieve a variety of marketing goals.

Cooperating with game development companies can be difficult, as many games have complicated mechanics (or extremely principled developers), but in the end, the result is worth all the effort. Keep in mind the trend of the global dominance of mobile games, and launch your first in-game campaign with SmartyAds.

Launch an in-app or in-game campaign on SmartyAds DSP!

Written by
Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
November 2022