4 Things the Ad Industry Could Learn from E3
It’s two days until Lions Health kicks off and four days until Cannes Lions proper gets underway so, understandably, a substantial chunk of the advertising industry is in the midst of a frenzy, chasing up party invites, weeping over meeting schedules or trying to find their sunglasses. The rest are befriending their livers and smugly telling all who will listen that they’re just too busy to go this year. But while all attention is focused on Cannes, we’re in danger of missing out on some of the other big events that are happening outside of advertising. This week I’ve been geeking out, following E3 and pondering what the ad industry could learn from the gaming industry’s flagship event.
Watch Brand Engagement in Action
E3, like Cannes, is essentially a massive industry get together. Games developers and publishers and tech platforms jostle for stage time to show off their upcoming products. But, unlike the Cannes advertising festival, E3 has millions of consumers around the world following every development, watching live streams and tweeting their excitement about what is, essentially, a giant ad. A game trailer unveiled at E3 can generate over 6 million YouTube views in 24 hours. I’m struggling to think of any other industry convention that generates as much salivation among non-industry punters.
And, unlike ad industry conferences, where agency speakers contort themselves trying to fit their creds reel into part of a ‘relevant industry debate’, those taking the stage at E3 have no such qualms about just showing off and flogging. It’s kind of amazing to behold. And it’s an education brand engagement that we just can’t ignore.
What People Want
Gaming is big business. It’s predicted that by 2017 the global games market will be worth over $102 billion. That there’s plenty of opportunity for brands and ad agencies is obvious. Buuuuut it’s opportunity that comes with a few caveats. Gamers are an intensely engaged bunch, which is great when they’re excited but it can be somewhat less great when you piss them off. Oh, ad agencies are no strangers to having their latest creative ripped to pieces by smug Tweeters or sternly complained about by biddies with strong ideas about what’s good and proper, but that’s nothing compared to the wrath of various sub sections of the gaming community (I know a few games industry journos and I’d take the waspish bitching of adland over Gamergate any day).
So conventions like E3 – and the reactions on social media, in places like reddit and gaming websites – are a really good place to suss out how fans react to different things, what winds them up and what sends them into convulsions of glee. And the answer can be quite surprising. I’ve covered a fair few gloriously animated games trailers and deeply thoughtful campaigns in my time – campaigns that have been by most measures pretty successful. But clever and pretty isn’t enough for many gamers who would rather see real in-game footage and demos than whimsical, pre-rendered films. To understand the opportunities and potential pitfalls of getting involved in this space, you need to challenge your assumptions. Tune in to the E3 live stream on Youtube here.
The future of reality
Creative agencies and production companies aren’t the only places having conniptions over virtual and augmented reality. The mass adoption of virtual reality hinges, in part, on whether gamers take to Oculus Rift, PlayStation’s Morpheus or PC gaming platform Valve’s HTC headset – and this year’s E3 had plenty of announcements about all of these.
Even more exciting were hints about what the future of augmented reality might look like. We’ve already seen demos of Microsoft’s Hololens but when Minecraft developers Mojang showed attendees how their game works with Hololens they drew choruses of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience. And me.
One of the odder phenomena that has grown up around games conventions is cosplay, when fans take the chance to dress up as their favourite Final Fantasy 7 character or a World of Warcraft Tauren shaman. Imagine rocking up to Cannes to see delegates in lovingly handcrafted, lopsided Cadbury gorilla costumes or dressed as sexy lady David Drogas. Well. It would do wonders for my Instagram account.