We are bombarded with advertisements on a daily basis and, as we’ve often seen it all before, it takes something very special to resonate with us. In the world of digital marketing and social media it takes more than a funny video or trendy catchphrase for a product to become a hit with consumers.

Digital marketing strategy plays a major role in the gaming industry and companies spend millions marketing their games, sometimes even more than developing them! By the end of 2016, the gaming industry (mobile, console, & PC) spent around $4.91 billion on digital advertising. That is a massive amount to invest, but it also indicates how vital and how difficult it has become reaching and, more importantly, convincing gamers to buy a product.

With more ways to access content than even a decade ago, the gaming market has become fragmented albeit whilst expanding. According to Adobe Analytics, gaming visits by device have increased 8% year-over-year, with tablet-use increasing 23% and smartphone-use decreasing 8%. So even there is more fruit to pick off the tree, it has become more difficult to climb and access the best fruit.

So, how do the best companies do it? Digital media marketing is an art form and it is about targeting specific audiences with risky, audacious and creative campaigns that excite consumers. Here we examine three of the most effective and inventive digital marketing campaigns from the gaming industry.


Today we all use our mobiles for gaming but in 2009 it was still a relatively new concept and many of us didn’t have a concept of how gargantuan this industry would become. Currently, mobile gamers account for 150 million gamers overall and that number is only expected to continue growing. Finnish developers Mikael and Niklas Hed of Rovio certainly understood the potential of the market when they launched Angry Birds on the iOS App Store in December 2009. The game showcased on the UK App Store as ‘game of the week’ and Rovio cleverly used a YouTube trailer to maximise the exposure. The plan certainly worked and the trailer, a first of its kind for a mobile game, has now been viewed 110 million times! By 2014, Angry Birds had been downloaded two billion times on multiple platforms and the Angry Birds kingdom now includes a variety of spin-off games, merchandise, theme park attractions and a Hollywood movie.


Like with the other games in the Call of Duty franchise, Activision got the buzz going early with a dramatic YouTube teaser trailer - a live-action advertisement featuring Robert Downey Jr and a Twitter campaign ‘Choose Your Own Black Ops Adventure’. These generated the required buzz and helped set the record for the most pre-ordered game on Amazon.

Activision made an interesting move in their digital marketing campaign to partner with an existing app, Action Movie FX, to create a Black Ops II branded version of the app. This allowed consumers to upload clips of themselves rendered with stunt-worthy digital effects. Activision also built a custom landing page to actively engage with the audience and provide access to exclusive content. The site was a success seeing high levels of engagement with a high average user engagement time of 8 minutes.

After the game’s release, Activision continued to step up their digital marketing campaign with The Replacer YouTube videos. The advertisements poked fun at gamers spending a lot of their time playing Black Ops II, with actor Peter Stormare offering to be a ‘replacement’ in their everyday lives. As well as successfully advertising exclusive downloadable content, the videos were a huge success garnering thousands of views. Tim Ellis, CMO of Activision, described the whole campaign for the game as “re-writing the rule-book of how games are marketed.” The figures show he wasn’t talking in hyperbole, with Black Ops II grossing $1 billion in the first 15 days of availability and selling 24.2 million copies overall.


The Madden NFL series is the iconic cornerstone of EA Sports and has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The series is also well known for its creative marketing campaigns and the 2015 launch didn’t break that trend. GIFs have become a popular fixture around the internet, essentially becoming the new way to communicate on social media. EA set out to capitalise on the GIFs customisable element and use this to their advantage.

To coincide with the release of Madden 15, EA Sports released the ‘Madden GIFERATOR’. EA had an ambition to connect with young, football-obsessed fans and expand its association with the real-world NFL. The pioneering ‘GIFERATOR’ technology blended live NFL data with Madden 15 game footage to generate GIF highlights for every single game, all conveyed via real-time ads across sports websites and apps. The result was an expansive collection of GIFs that gamers loved, as the avid football fans could take, edit and share with friends or use to taunt their rivals. EA also created a smartphone app that allowed sports fans to provoke rival fans or support their team with using the same GIFs. The innovative digital marketing worked superbly, with Madden NFL 15 becoming the second best-selling retail game in the United States in 2014, only behind Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

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