The in-game advertising cycle is encouraging more brands to lean in. And Skip4, a new gaming-focused ad agency led by women who proudly wear the “gamer” label, is looking to increase the channel’s share of media budgets.
The new venture, which launched today, was co-founded by President Erin Schendl and Vice President Rachel Alexander.
The idea is to educate brands about ways they can reach more than 3 billion gamers worldwide using targeted and measurable solutions, similar to what they would do in other digital media channels, Schendl said.
“Gaming has become so mainstream in what we do in our personal lives, but it’s not yet mainstream in marketing plans,” Schendl said. “That’s where we come in.”
The two founders have led partnerships for OpTic Gaming for the past two years. But they have worked together in various media marketing roles since the mid-2000s, including in radio for CBS and Cumulus Media and in television for more than a decade at TEGNA’s WFAA Media. And they’ve added fellow OpTic Gaming and TEGNA alum Sonia Artz to head up client services.
Together, they plan to help clients craft effective strategies for the gaming space, leveraging their experience bringing brands into media channels as they mature — just as the co-founders did in their WFAA days during the rise of OTT and CTV, Schendle said .
One way they recommend brands change their gaming strategy is to think beyond video game and esports sponsorships, since budgets for those can be tight, Schendl said, and use media budgets instead.
In-game and mobile ads should be a bigger part of media budgets because they can be bought programmatically, are just as targeted as other media formats and offer one-to-one connections with highly engaged audiences, she added.
That being said, not every gaming opportunity uses turnkey software technology. Skip4 also consults with brands on in-game user experiences, Alexander said. (Think Barbie’s Dream House built by Mattel in Roblox.)
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When it comes to personalized experiences, Skip4 sees itself as the connective tissue between brands, the game developers who design those experiences and the platforms that host them, Schendl said, though she declined to name partners at this time.
Building a content studio with its own game development capabilities is on the roadmap for Skip4, but not an immediate priority, Schendl added. Instead, the company will prioritize growing its three-woman team by adding more sales and partnership support over the next six months to a year.
Also, while personalized experiences are hot right now, they’re not perfect for every brand, and there are plenty of options that don’t require as much heavy lifting, Alexander said.
Rather than chasing what’s trendy, Skip4 determines brand performance or brand goals and designs a strategy that will work for them.
The company considers itself audience agnostic, although brands seem most interested in reaching the 17-24 age range, Schendle said. This is likely because it helps them future-proof themselves by building loyalty among younger users while avoiding the potential pitfalls of targeting ads to children.
Most brands still need training for the full audience opportunity available to them, Schendle said. For example, some marketers are still surprised that they can reach women, parents or people who earn six figures through video games, she added.
In fact, Schendle and Alexander said they often encounter female CMOs and media buyers who play wildly popular games like Candy Crush, but who don’t see themselves as part of the games’ audience. “So it’s helpful to have a group of women in the gaming space talking about it and leading the charge,” Schendl said.
But Skip4 wants to be clear that just because it’s run by women doesn’t mean it’s exclusively focused on female gamers.
“We’re all about girl power,” Alexander said, “but we’re here to tell the story that everyone is a gamer.”