How Pokémon Go Will Change Mobile Advertising
By now you’ve heard of -- if not played -- Pokémon Go. You’ve also heard about how the game keeps shattering download records (with 75 million and counting) and revenue since its launch barely a month ago.
Pokémon Go has overtaken breakout mobile hits such as Color Switch to global juggernauts such as Supercell’s Clash Royale. And while the game is definitely prompting mobile developers to re-examine location-based gameplay, Niantic’s hit may have an even greater effect on how we buy and sell mobile ads.
The online to offline connection
Data and scale make Pokémon Go a unique and interesting piece of IP from a mobile marketer’s perspective. Take the game’s tens of millions of players, layer in their location data, add in the ability to drive them to specific, real-world places, and you have a potential gold mine for retailers.
Smaller businesses such as street vendors, restaurants and even libraries have already been indirectly capitalizing on the increased traffic from being near Pokéstops -- but imagine the traffic that an in-game mission to collect a rare and powerful Pokémon could drive to Starbucks or Target. Brands such as Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UJF have already deployed campaigns like this in Ingress, the original location-based game that Pokémon Go is built on, and now Nintendo has confirmed a branding partnership with McDonald’s in Japan.
Advertisers have had access to location-based products such as mobile beacons for quite some time, but Pokémon Go’s ability to get people outside, phone in hand, with a specific purpose of looking for things creates a unique opportunity to drive in-store traffic without needing additional infrastructure. Expect mobile games and apps with location-based mechanics to become far more attractive to retailers as potential partners in the next 12 to 18 months.
Custom content in a highly-engaged environment
Gameplay stats from Pokémon Go make it clear that people are spending lots of time in the app -- in some cases, even more time than in Facebook, one of the most popular apps in the U.S. based on time spent. But most mobile games get players to invest even higher levels of their time and attention. Take MZ’s Game of War, where players spend an average of two hours daily, or King’s Candy Crush Saga, with daily time spent averaging around 43 minutes.
With players spending so much active, engaged time, mobile games become a unique environment for advertisers to create branded experiences that actually provide value to players. These include product placement opportunities -- such as the beauty and fashion brands in games such as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood -- as well as custom missions, quests and rewards, such as the fictional “collect a rare Pokémon at Starbucks” example cited earlier. The value-exchange in this scenario is that the brand must be willing to work to create an immersive experience for players in exchange for their time and interaction.
Scalable branding with programmatic video
The potential for real-world retail campaigns and custom brand integrations are examples of two kinds of deeply immersive mobile ad experiences that Pokémon Go has made more attractive. But not all marketers have the budgets or resources to create such complex in-game integrations, and that’s where mobile video ads come in.
Mobile games get millions (and in some cases, hundreds of millions) of players to invest significant amounts of time. That creates unprecedented scale, and with a gorgeous 15- or 30-second spot, advertisers can access that scale in a way they’ve already become accustomed to. Add in the fact that the programmatic options for running in-app mobile video campaigns continue to explode, and games such as Pokémon Go quickly become scalable, even more attractive mediums for both brand and performance advertisers.
Ultimately, mobile games have always had the scale (and potential) of Pokémon Go -- now we can just expect to see greater numbers of advertisers expressing eagerness to get into them more readily.
Janis Zech is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Fyber. Zech is a Berlin and San Francisco-based serial entrepreneur and angel investor passionate about technology ventures. He co-founded Fyber in 2009, and has since grown it to a leading mobile advertising technology company with offices in San Francisco and Berlin.
Zech was previously with Team Europe, one of Europe's most successful incubators, and invested in several seed stage startups.