At CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Samsung was one of several smart TV set makers declaring their intent to launch a game hub application, giving viewers the chance to play top-quality video games without using a console or set-top unit. Just aim a wireless controller at the screen, punch buttons and move handles to play. Last Wednesday morning, Samsung became the first smart TV brand to seek advertising for its game hub in public, delivering the opening presentation of Interactive Advertising Bureau's two-day 2023 PlayFronts gathering in New York.
The Big Message: After nine months of operation, Samsung's hub is drawing a steady audience of gamers in a wide variety of demographics and is ready to support advertisers in reaching this audience regularly through in-game opportunities from billboard placement to scenery signage. Moreover, Samsung is bent on not having ads interrupt or interfere with gameplay. "We ae a partner with the gaming industry," noted Avner Ronen, Samsung's Vice President of Product Development. Hubs from his company and the rest of the smart TV set and device manufacturers "will become the venue for gamers everywhere."
Hosts: Ronen, joined by a number of executives from Samsung's smart TV ad sales business.
What Worked: A well-rounded presentation complete with eye-catching graphics on a videowall in full view of the audience. The capper was a fireside chat with Don McLean (no relation to the "American Pie" singer), Director of Gaming at ad agency dentsu. McLean combined his bullishness for what Samsung and other smart TV vendors are doing with non-console video games with a call for the game industry to dismantle common stereotypes that disengage advertisers from using their medium. Those stereotypes run from "only men play games" to "only Generation X people play games consistently." "There's a lot of myth-busting we still have to do," McLean acknowledged.
What Also Worked: Pulling out every stop possible to educate attendees about the advantages of videogame play via smart TV sets. Besides getting first dibs at pitching a capacity crowd of advertiser, agency and game developer officials on opening day, Samsung served as principle sponsor for the event and on both days maintained a couch-comfy demonstration space steps from the main auditorium. Full disclosure: I spent a few minutes after the presentation at their exhibit, playing their "Hot Wheels" game. Let's just acknowledge my turn with "Hot Wheels" was nowhere near a high scoring one and leave it at that.
What Didn't Work: No bumps, glitches or missing key information here.
Data Points: Samsung is out to get a share of ad spend on video game ventures that attracted $8.6 billion dollars last year and is projected to increase 10 percent and reach at least $9.5 billion in 2023, according to eMarketer. Research from IAB sources suggests 46 percent of all people playing video games regularly are women; 40 percent are people of color. Since last June, when Samsung opened its game hub, the user base has grown by 20 percent, while average game play time per user is up 60 percent
News: Between 900 and 1,000 games are running on Samsung's hub, supplied by Microsoft's Xbox operation, Nvidia's GForce Now service, Amazon's Luna game repository and Utomik. Another 1,000 games from two other suppliers will get hub space before the end of the year. Twitch, Amazon's own 24/7 interactive game venture, is playing on Samsung's smart TVs via the game hub. Spotify's catalog of music and audio/video podcasts is another Samsung hub feature.
"We're creating a marketplace for advertisers in gaming. We're a conduit to bring buyers and sellers together." -- David Cohen, Interactive Advertising Bureau Chief Executive Officer, making remarks prior to Samsung's presentation
"Gaming is the mythology of the digital generation … the gateway to generations beyond Gen Z. Linear TV is dying." -- Zoe Soon, Vice President of Interactive Advertising Bureau's Experience Center, just before Samsung executives came on stage for their presentation
"We understand better than anyone else how people use smart TVs. Streaming is the future of gaming." -- Cathy Oh, Samsung Ads Vice President of Global Marketing
"Gaming is the apex of culture. The influence is everywhere we look. Marketers should approach this space in a thoughtful way and look at ways to bring gamers added value." -- dentsu Gaming Director Don McLean
Our coverage of the 2023 PlayFronts continues here.
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