According to App Annie’s 2021 State of Mobile Report, mobile gaming grew 20% year over year in both users and total consumer spend. But is that jump reflected in mobile marketers’ media plans for 2021? ironSource surveyed 211 advertising industry professionals across agencies and programmatic partners to find out and gauge how much of their media strategies focus on mobile gaming.

Advertisers are ready to spend more in-game in 2021

Our survey found that ad spend in mobile games is set to increase this year, with 49% of those who have previously run in-game campaigns, and 32% of those who haven’t, planning on expanding in-game budgets in 2021. Meanwhile, 48% of those who have historically run in-game campaigns plan to continue to do so at existing spend levels.

  • 73% of survey respondents currently buy in-app ads
  • 51% of survey respondents currently buy in-game ads; 49% of these plan on increasing their spend from 2020, 48% plan on keeping it flat
  • 35% of those who did not buy in-game in 2020 plan on starting to buy in 2021
Buyers who do not purchase in-game underestimate the size of the market 

Despite the increase in spend and adoption, many media professionals continue to hold onto biases regarding who plays games, what kind of games are popular, and what ad formats work best in mobile games. This is particularly true of those who have never run campaigns on in-game inventory - as most found it difficult to identify the scale of the global gaming audience, their demographic makeup, or the revenue generated by the mobile gaming market.

Out of buyers who do not purchase in-app:

  • 58% underestimate the number of gamers worldwide, which Newzoo reported in 2020 as over 2.6 billion
  • 60% understate the average age of a gamer, which is 36
  • 86% assume that people playing most frequently earn salaries between $50K-$149K, when in actuality it $250K+
  • 75% underestimate the revenue generated by the gaming market. Mobile games made up $76 billion of revenue in 2020, according to Newzoo. As a comparison, global revenue for other entertainment channels like streaming remains lower than gaming - e.g., streaming audio ($26 billion), streaming video ($42 billion).
Buyers of all kinds continue to hold misconceptions about the gaming audience today

73% of buyers - regardless of whether or not they buy in-game ads - underestimate how much of the app audience would engage with rewarded video to unlock content. According to eMarketer, 74% of users would watch an ad in exchange for in-app rewards or currency, whereas most media buyers assumed the number was 65% - and those who do not buy in-game ads were likely to estimate it at 51%.

Across 15 questions about mobile audiences and gaming, the average score was 45% correct among the media professionals surveyed, even for those who had previously run campaigns on in-game inventory.

  • 83% of buyers know casual games are the most downloaded genre of mobile games. However, 67% incorrectly identify puzzles as the most popular sub-genre of casual games, versus the 15% who correctly identified it as arcade
  • 63% of buyers assumed casual games were the top genre for time spent, while only 15% correctly identified RPG, strategy and action games
What does this mean for ad buyers - and developers?

It’s reassuring to see an increased investment in gaming as more advertisers understand the reach and impact of the mobile gaming audience. The findings indicate that there remains an opportunity to educate media buyers about the power and potential of in-app and in-game advertising, and of the benefits of interactive formats such as rewarded video.

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