Brian Ames, president Activision Blizzard Media chats to LBB’s Laura Swinton ahead of CLX at Cannes Lions
Rich worlds, absorbing stories, real time data and oh-so-many hours sunk by fans. Gaming is one sector that’s unlocked all the special achievements when it comes to marketing. Other sectors can only dream of having the toys and tools that gaming brands have to play with. And yet, where’s the love from the rest of the marketing and advertising industry?
This week at Cannes, Activision Blizzard is among the gaming companies hoping to make their presence felt. And according to Brian Ames, the big hope is that the rest of adland realises the potential that gaming and gamers hold.
“We hope that the biggest takeaway is that gaming is huge, and gamers as an audience are not just misunderstood, but perhaps even thought about in a way that is doing a disservice to marketers,” says Brian. “Especially with the rise of mobile, gaming has quickly become ubiquitous with 2.4 billion consumers now deemed gamers. These are consumers brands are trying to reach and yet many have yet to tap into what is one of the most immersive and impactful places to reach them.”
This year Activision Blizzard – the business behind everything from World of Warcraft to Call of Duty – will be returning to Cannes Lions for its second year. They’re taking part in the new Cannes Lions initiative CLX, which will see them host invite-only roundtables as well as engaging with delegates in a more personable way.
For Brian, it’s also a chance to highlight and rectify the industry’s gaming blindspot. “CLX felt like a perfect fit for us – it’s all about what brands and agencies can learn from the wider world of entertainment, and Activision Blizzard has been creating worlds and stories that consumers love for decades. Unfortunately despite the growing reach, sophistication, and power of interactive entertainment, the ad world has had a bit of a blind spot on the marketing opportunity is in this space. We see CLX as a great venue to share our unique insights and perspectives on the gaming world – as well as how we fit within it. We want to make the breadth of possibilities for brands to participate very clear, visible, and accessible,” he says.
The Activision Blizzard roundtable is all about the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of building beloved stories. Where a gaming brand like Activision Blizzard wins out over more quotidian brands is that they’ve got vibrant worlds, exciting characters and an engaged, creative audience inbuilt. But even though they may seem to live the marketing dream, how do the metrics-driven marketing teams and the creative lore-builders at titles like eSports hit Overwatch? “Activision Blizzard is, in general, a very insights-led company. We’re really practicing this at Activision Blizzard Media, where our marketing and measurement teams are combined. So, in essence, we have our data scientists and art directors sitting in the same meetings – the result has been more thoughtful research in tune with the needs of marketers, and more empirically-driven strategies as it pertains to our marketing approach and the stories we tell.”
This insights-led approach makes sense for a company like Activision Blizzard which has a wealth of data to learn from. There’s everything from ingame behaviour to social engagement – gaming YouTube is massive. But what do they make of the brands like Adidas which have moved away from the more short term metrics approach to marketing in favour of concentrating on long term creative brand-building strategies? Is it a case of different approaches for different sectors or does every brand need to seriously engage with the possibility that minutely-tweaked, wholly data-driven approaches can be damaging in the long term?
“I think there is a time and a place for both,” says Brian thoughtfully. “Short term performance can help optimize executions in a number of ways – from creative impact to ideal messaging cadence. However, as it pertains to the value being generated by the media, brands shouldn’t leave any value on the table. What are the short term psychographic impacts? How many customers did you convert, what is their lifetime value, and is that value of converted customers different from one platform or another? Basically, there isn’t an easy answer, but being more thoughtful about where and how research is evoked, and how it ties to the core business goals of a business, is the major key. It’s not about landing on a solution, but rather, having a variety of solutions to work with.”
Though the Activision Blizzard team have a lot planned for Cannes Lions 2019 in terms of the CLX activity, they’re also hoping that the festival will provide lots of opportunity to learn from marketers and creatives in other fields and sectors.
“! We’ve really spent a lot of time bringing our franchises to life – what I most look forward to is seeing how brands across a variety of industries really bring their brands to life in the most creative way possible. I hope they give us a run for our money in terms of overall fun because everyone wins and we’ll certainly be even more motivated and inspired for future years at Cannes,” says Brian.