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March 15, 2023


Consumer perspectives on in-game advertising

Illustrative quotes that underscore our reporting insights

Abbie Baxter & Patrick Egan, Ph.D. Avatar

Written by

Abbie Baxter & Patrick Egan, Ph.D.

Getting in the game with DISQO insights

The popularity of video games has skyrocketed in recent years, making in-game advertising a prime opportunity for brands and platforms. For brands seeking to expand their footprint and capture new audiences, how can they take advantage of this burgeoning medium? Are there ways to both support a positive gaming experience and enhance your marketing KPIs? 

In our larger report on in-game advertising, we used the DISQO CX platform to (1) survey consumer gaming perspectives and (2) assess gaming-related digital behavioral signals. Download this report if you’re looking for detailed quantitative data on the in-game opportunity, and why it’s so critical for brands to start playing and/or leveling up their approach.

However, if you’re looking for a quick preview of what consumers had to say about gaming and in-game advertising, we’ve pulled some detailed quotes from our DISQO audience members in this article. All of these quotes come from a 28,000-response survey run in March 2023. Each customer reaction harkens to a larger pattern that we see represented in the more advanced data analyses from our downloadable report

Customer experience (CX) should be Level 1

Regardless of whether you’re an experienced advertiser or a new entrant into the gaming world, gamer experience should be your number one priority. Interruptions, whether they’re from a pushy display ad, a frustrating video overlay, or an unskippable banner, turn gamers away from your brand by taking them out of the game. These disruptive placements can even cause negative sentiment toward the brand or its products.

“I don't want ads to take away from my experience. I am more likely to quit the game if I am not having fun and there are too many ads that interrupt my experience. If they are just on the side and not intrusive, they won't bother me too much.” 
Female, 45 years old, $65,000 - $69,999, New Mexico

“Don't place intrusive ads in video games. If I have to stop to watch ads before, during, or after gameplay, then I will just straight up not play the game. Product placement is fine, so are optional ads that you only watch to get rewards, but forcing people to consume your advertisements is a huge turn off.”
Male, 25 years old, $40,000 - $44,999, Nebraska

Enhance more: Both our quantitative data and qualitative responses indicate that advertisers need to focus on creating in-game ads and content that enhance, rather than detract from, the gamer experience. Brands should look for ways to seamlessly integrate ads into the game’s settings, or create product placements that players can interact with.

“Ads are okay as long as they do not interrupt the game experience. I have a few games where, every so often, the game completely stops to show an ad and that makes me really want to avoid playing. If you can somehow work the ads into the game, that is the best option.”
Female, 24 years old, $50,000 - $54,999, Texas

Embed in context: It’s worth noting, too, that disruptions can go beyond just stopping gameplay. Including ad content that is completely irrelevant to the target audience of a specific game or has little to do with the game itself can take players out of the world they chose to be in. Know your customer before diving headfirst into an activation and look for ways to align your in-game content with their interests.

If an ad doesn't organically fit within the game's setting, such as a soft drink billboard in a city setting, it's likely to irritate people. Not only will they avoid the ad, but they're likely to purposefully avoid the product, too.” 
Male, 39, $50,000 - $54,999, Connecticut

“The best way to work ads into a game is to make it an item the player can use in the game or a merchant selling the product in-game. Just don’t break the immersive aspect of a game by throwing an advert into someone's gameplay.”
Male, 55, $200,000 - $249,999, N/A

It’s not a man-child’s game anymore

In its earliest days, gaming was a more niche area of technology, and often relegated to the domain of young adults - particularly young men. But time, technological breakthroughs, and cultural evolution have transformed gaming into an every-person pursuit. Our survey data shows that over 60% of consumers play video games weekly, and that this popularity is not relegated to any specific subgroup. In order to find in-game advertising success, brands need to focus on developing strategies that capture a wide range of consumers - younger and older, men and women.

“You have a diverse audience. Appeal to a wide group of people, including both younger and older generations, as well as those with different interests.
Female, 68, $50,000 - $74,999, Virginia

“Make sure the product is actually relevant to the user as well. And please, remember: women like to play games, too.”
Female, 38 years old, $25,000 - $49,999, Texas

Accidentally ostracized: Limiting your advertising efforts to younger generations or male audiences can actually distance your brand from groups beyond these demographics. In a highly-engaged setting like gaming, players will notice if they’re being overlooked by brands and may even reject your product(s) as a result. Make content that’s relevant to a broad and diverse audience, and eliminate your preconceived notions about what gamers look like.

The ads I see are for kids, which is extremely irritating. And they repeat them all the time. Let us choose relevant ads when playing.”
Female, 59 years old, $45,000 - $49,999, Kentucky

“Make the ads for every age, not just the younger generation.”
Female, 55, $50,000 - $54,999, Pennsylvania

Metaverse implications: These findings apply not only to traditional gaming, but also to more immersive experiences like the metaverse. Whether consumers are experimenting with these formats themselves or playing alongside their children, there’s a unique opportunity for brands to reach new gamer audiences that are ramping up their exposure.

Don’t roll the dice on creative evaluation

As brands consider the best advertising strategies to excel in the gaming world, rapid experimentation of different ad formats, audiences, and gaming platforms is key. The best way to do this is going straight to the source - your customers - before diving headfirst into design, production, and implementation.

“Make the ads more visually appealing, as a lot of them are obnoxious to look at. [...] I don't like to listen to ads.” 
Female, 59, $100,000 - $124,999, Maryland

Stay agile: Ensuring your messaging resonates with your customers is just as important as evaluating its integration into the gaming environment. To develop content that is both attention-grabbing and seamlessly-integrated, brands need to take a dedicated test and learn approach. Get real-time feedback from consumers about ad creative, taglines, messaging, and imagery - and adjust content accordingly to ensure maximum ROI.

Multiple times, I have watched ads for other video games that look interesting. After downloading it, I found that the ad was very misleading and the experience was nothing like what’s in the ad.”
Female, 44, $125,000 - $149,999, Ohio

Capitalize on creative freedom: It’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in the gaming world. Different consumers want different things, and brands should be mindful of this. Real-time feedback from customers is the best way to develop a strategy that can appeal to a wider range of consumers, and may help prevent pouring organizational dollars into ads that miss the mark. The good news? Brands have a more flexible creative license in the gaming world - consumers are open to them trying different things and finding new opportunities for engagement.

Brands should offer engaging ads that play at the top or at the bottom of the screen. This will catch the gamer person's attention without annoying them. Or create ads that don't cover the entire screen but only as a small mini pop up screen layered at the top part of the game screen.”
Female, 41, $125,000 and above, California

Up the ante for gamers

We’ve already noted the importance of keeping CX top-of-mind with in-game advertising. However, our consumer feedback suggests that advertisers should take their efforts one step further by attempting to enhance CX with their branded placements. Gamers are much more likely to feel positive about a brand if they receive something in return for viewing their sponsored content. 

Connecting ads to in-game rewards is valuable to the player, [...] or ads that become skippable with a certain level of performance in the game.”
Male, 46, $125,000 and above, California

Watch ads for an in-game reward that makes it worth watching. For example, a 15 second ad could be worth 15 coins. [...] The longer the ad, the more rewards.”
Female, 54, $24,999 and under, Pennsylvania

Be the hero: Gaming is all about leveling up, whether it’s upgrading your resources, unlocking new challenges, or earning points. This presents a unique opportunity for brands to engage with consumers in the ways that bring both parties a meaningful reward. Partner with platforms to help ensure your branded content has a positive impact on the gamer experience - your gaming audience will be grateful. Our survey findings strongly reinforce this perspective, as consumers prefer in-game ad formats that help them advance, unlock bonus content, or reveal in-game contests.

“In order to interact with ads, games should offer additional rewards such as tokens, boosts and rewards (in-play "helpers"). This is a great incentive to watch an ad or two.”
Female, 56, $40,000 - $44,999, Connecticut

“It should be clever so the brand sticks with you and interactive with the players so they feel they have completed an important task. Make the ad part of the game - different acts get different rewards from the brand.”
Female, 66, $25,000 - $49,999, Texas

Game on!

As mentioned previously, the quotes and corresponding analyses above are a mere preview of the large-scale data-driven insights available in our larger report. In this report, downloadable from the page linked here, brands, agencies, media companies, and gaming platforms can walk through the in-game advertising opportunity in much greater detail. Our report covers both attitudinal and behavioral datasets that converge to highlight the allure and pitfalls of branded content in gaming ecosystems.

Icon image of a head with a heart in it representing attitude.Attitudes: What people think
To assess consumer attitudes toward gaming and in-game advertising, we surveyed 28,244 nationally representative consumers from DISQO’s audience. Sixty-two percent reported playing games at least once a week. Questions ranged from characterizing their gaming habits to their most/least preferred in-game advertising experiences. We analyzed survey responses by key demographics, including generation, gender and household income. 

Icon Image of brain representing behavior.Behavior: What people do
We also examined the actions of DISQO audience members who have opted into digital journey metering. We examined site visitation trends to websites central in gaming, including news outlets (IGN, Kotaku, GameSpot), dedicated sections of e-commerce websites (e.g., Amazon, Target, Gamestop), and gaming manufacturer websites (e.g., Playstation, XBox, Nintendo). We examined findings with a demographic lens to see how site visitation is distributed across age, income and gender.


DISQO’s solutions to optimize gaming ad effectiveness

Regardless of what you think of this analysis and our larger report, the DISQO CX platform has multiple solutions for brands looking to elevate their use of in-game marketing. Use these tools to get ahead of the game!

Icon image of a human girl representing audience.DISQO Audience 

  • DISQO’s has the largest fully-consented direct audience of U.S. consumers. With 2 million members, all 100% opted in to share zero-party data about their customer experiences. Our audience can be quickly used to survey attitudes about in-game advertising. 

  • This audience can be surveyed via DISQO Experience Suite, accessed through our always-on Audience API, or tapped with the help of DISQO’s Managed Services research offerings. In all approaches, clients can precisely target specific audiences, including sample selection based on past, observed digital behaviors. 

  • Many in the DISQO Audience opt into metering of their digital behavior. This provides unique insights about gaming-related searches, website visits, and resulting e-commerce activity via our industry-leading Outcomes Lift solution.

Image of icons representing ad testing.DISQO Ad Testing

  • Brands and their creative teams can nimbly test creative for in-game and other ad channels prior to going in-market.

  • Tests can be built across campaigns, creative types, channels, and target audiences to confidently assess all necessary assets.

  • The industry-leading speed and cost-effectiveness of DISQO Ad Testing allows brands and agencies to replace guesswork with data by testing every creative.

Image of arm with muscles representing brand and outcomes lift.DISQO Brand Lift and Outcomes Lift

  • Advertisers, agencies, and media platforms can measure brand perception and behavioral impacts resulting from cross-channel ad exposure. 

  • With client-supplied campaign flight information, we tag cross-channel advertising exposure locations (e.g., in-game, social media, digital, programmatic, etc.) and cross-reference these locations against metered digital behaviors to generate exposed and matched-control groups.

  • Attitudinal and behavioral differences between these groups are then used to calculate advertising lift. These lift scores enable powerful conclusions about how in-game marketing compares to other channels.

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