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Angry Birds, Audio and Ad spend: The Rise of the African Mobi Gamer

By Leslie Adams, Sales Director at Reach Africa

Who would have guessed that a couple of Angry Birds with superpowers would have gained such a cult-like following, amassing five billion downloads by 2022 (more than both Instagram and WhatsApp), spurring a movie and even a sequel and earning fans like Angelina Jolie and David Cameron?  

As one of the biggest mobile gaming successes the world has ever seen, these furious fowls are evidence of a booming global gaming industry; with the Sub-Saharan Africa mobile gaming market predicted to be the fastest growing in the world.

A study by Carry1st revealed that in the space of six short years (2015 – 2021), the number of gamers in sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled, rising to 186 million people – roughly 30-50% of the region’s internet users. Of this number, the vast majority (95%) are reported as playing on mobile.

The simplefact is that Africa is – and has always been – a mobile-driven economy. As a result, the continent’s gaming ecosystem has been viewed and nurtured through a mobile-first lens, with the design and development of all new technologies keeping the device firmly front and centre.

Connecting with the African Mobi Gamer

The African mobile gaming market provides an untapped opportunity for advertisers. At the root of this is gaming’s inherent ability to truly capture audiences, dishing up what is currently the highest-value currency for advertisers: attention.

Think about it: in gaming, there’s no risk of a consumer taking a bathroom break when an ad interrupts their favourite TV show (in fact, our phones often accompany us to the toilet!) or “blanking” a digital banner ad because they’re constantly bombarded with online advertising. Gaming offers a completely captive audience; one that is happy to spend an accumulatively enormous stretch of time playing Candy Crush or Township.

Unlike other advertising mediums, which see audiences spiking at certain times – for example, Primetime for TV or Drivetime for radio – the Mobi Gamer will pick up their device multiple times throughout the day, whiling away hours spent in doctors’ waiting rooms or during lunch breaks. And these minutes add up: a 2023 survey conducted among 2 036 South African consumers found that 35% of gamers were spending up to five hours playing games, every day. There’s also no risk of wastage, as ads are only served when a gamer is playing.

In-game innovation: In the future, no one will stop for ads

For several years now, brands have been taking advantage of various in-game ad formats compatible with cellular devices, such as playable, expandable and video ads, to name a few. But this is only the beginning; we’re in the infancy of unlocking the full potential of this medium.

Uninterrupted in-game ads are an exciting new way for advertisers to reach gamers. Currently, many advertisers make use of reward-based ads, with the gamer needing to watch an ad to unlock a certain level or reward. This is often frustrating for the gamer as it disrupts the gaming experience. Uninterrupted in-game ads, however, integrate the brand or product into the game itself, becoming part of the experience while being impossible for the gamer to miss.

Audio is also adding a powerful new layer to in-game advertising. There’s no disputing the fact that audio provides a powerful earphone into the heads and hearts of consumers; radio broadcasters have been sitting on these numbers for years. Consider that in South Africa alone, around 23 million people tune into radio on an average weekday and you will see just how big the potential audio audience pie is. And when it comes to Gen Z, the highly-coveted new advertising demographic, audio streaming is found to be their number one mobile activity.

Why is audio so powerful when integrated with in-game advertising? Firstly, it’s immersive. It connects with consumers emotionally and creates relationships while driving both engagement and action.

Secondly, audio is, quite literally, unskippable. Audio can only serve if a user’s volume is on – you can look away and miss a video, but when your sound is on, you can’t avoid an audio ad.

Finally, we’re more receptive to audio. Gen Zs, in particular, have been exposed to more advertising than any previous generation. As a result, they’re dialling out: the report, “Ad blockers and advocacy: Why Gen Z is blocking paid ads in favour of real voices” has found that 99% of Gen Z consumers will hit “skip” on an ad if it’s an option and that 63% will use ad blockers to avoid online adverts – but they don’t seem to mind audio ad formats, viewing it as part-and-parcel of the listening experience.

With digital audio ad spend worldwide expected to reach $8.95 billion this year, it’s clear that marketers are sitting up and paying attention. GADSME, a global in-game advertising platform, knows this and has already successfully added audio to its ad formats.

When it comes to leveraging the power of audio to elevate in-game advertising, it’s going to be a case of the early (or should that be, Angry?) bird catching the ad spend worm.

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