Insight: The new age of advertising

505 Games’ SVP of global brand Tim Woodley, a former marketing boss at Activision and Codemasters, shares his experiences with the rapidly changing landscape for video games promotion

It would be a brave person to argue that the rate of change in our industry is pedestrian. What is perhaps often overlooked, however, is the rate of change in the marketing paradigm.

Even the word ‘paradigm’, with its connotations of long-established principles and slowly evolving trends, doesn’t really apply in today’s marketing world. The pace of change in marketing and communications is as fast as it is in all other aspects of our industry – arguably the fastest – and it is accelerating. It takes a concerted effort and focus to keep up with best practices.

Of course, the era of outbound marketing display advertising is over 100 years old, pre-dating even the famed Mad Men of the 1950s. In the early-to-mid noughties, outbound marketing moved into the digital space,
but it was still very disruptive and display-orientated in nature, and, for about 20 years, quite dependable.

Even the move to inbound marketing and the social media paradigm (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on) of the last five to ten years now seems like a reassuringly constant landscape for the modern marketer to ply his or her trade, relative to the here-and-now that is. So much so that I’ve come to dismiss any marketing hypothesis or white paper that is anything more than six to 12 months old.

In the paid and earned media spaces, in particular, barely a week goes by without a new theory about the best practice for search, programmatic, biddable and so on, plus which key performance indicators (KPIs) are meaningful and which are not. It’s a maelstrom of marketing theorems.

"We live in an age of analytics
where ‘marketing technology’
is rising up as the one trend
to rule them all."

Tim Woodley, 505 Games

As is by now well-documented, the overarching trend is towards inbound marketing and content delivery where the consumer self-selects to engage with brands, products and services rather than brands interrupting through outbound messaging. It is the world of search, of social, of sharing. But within this sub-segment the ‘rules of engagement’ are still be debated, as concepts and theories are stress-tested in real-world
case studies.

The skill is in recognising the longer-lasting trends – the ones that are not just flashes in the marcomms pan, but those that will have staying power: those that have a proven Darwinian resilience through robust, reliable and repeatable KPIs.

In amongst this confusion is the reassuring truth that the consumer is still at the centre of everything. Outbound display advertising died out largely because it is, by its very nature, more product-focused than consumer-focused. Inbound marketing is currently the ‘fittest’ in the Darwinian analogy because it forces us to return
the consumer to the centre of all we do.

Additionally, we have spent an inordinate amount of time in bygone eras focusing on acquisition marketing, obsessing over the number of new users we’re reaching. Now, it’s about engagement and lifetime value of existing users. We acquire to retain. We retain to monetise. Free-to-play, subscription MMOs and the macro-trend towards games as services has brought terms like ‘retention’, ‘churn’ and ‘monthly active users’ to the front of mind in our world, but such terminology is permeating the entire marketing lexicon – regardless of sector.

The irony is that ‘retention’ has much more to with content management through owned media – websites, social channels and so on – than it does ‘paid’ or ‘earned’ media, which is broadly the domain of customer acquisition.

Fortunately we live in an age of analytics where ‘marketing technology’ is rising up as the one trend to rule them all. Content management systems, CRM and analytics can not only tell us everything we need to know about consumer make-up and behaviours, but can also give us real-time answers to the questions being posed by the marketing theorists and help us validate or otherwise.

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