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Ad Spotlight: with Vanessa Goff-Yu, Marketing and Communications Director, TAG

Welcome to the Ad Spotlight series where we hear from a different guest from the industry each month to get an insight into the landscape of advertising as well as their own personal experiences.

Our guest this month is Vanessa Goff-Yu. Vanessa has extensive experience in the cross section between gaming and digital advertising. She’s currently the Marketing and Communications Director at TAG, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, which is the leading global initiative fighting to stop criminal activity and increase trust and transparency in digital advertising.

What she doesn’t know about gaming and advertising isn’t worth knowing, so we sat down to chat about her career and where the industry is heading.

Q: Why did you choose a career in advertising?

A: I was getting more involved in the B2B side while working with higher education institutions. I wanted to expand my marketing skills and learn more which led me to my first role at iotec (now known as Silver Bullet Data Services Group).

I didn’t know what I was getting into, and I still don’t! In media and advertising, there are so many pockets, channels, and topics to discover, as well as opportunities to help businesses expand their marketing horizons.

The mood of the industry can change with a click of a finger and that gives me the adrenaline rush I need for work.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?

A: Security in digital advertising and the metaverse.

Even though we are making positive progress in the wider context of brand safety, (with a 20% drop in European Ad fraud in TAG certified channels compared to 2021), there are always new challenges that needs to be solved to ensure we minimise risks of foul play in digital advertising. For example, Malvertising and threat intelligence. This topic isn’t spoken about widely enough and our industry should be working more closely with the cybersecurity community to find effective and efficient solutions to those problems.

We need to have meaningful conversations and build more meaningful relationships with the communities and governing bodies that matter.

In recent months, the word ‘metaverse’ has caused brands and advertisers to panic. They’re panicking because there’s a lack of knowledge around the subject and their FOMO levels are building up fast. Great thing about the metaverse, is that if you have a digital presence, the brand’s metaverse has established already. What brands and advertisers should really be focusing on, is the MULTIVERSE – the concept of leveraging different virtual and physical environments all at the same time, that will delight the right consumers in the most engaged and delightful way.

Q: Sum up the future of advertising in three words.

A: Expansive. Lightspeed. Unpredictable.

Q: What is your biggest career highlight?

A: The “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign with the DCMS and Dirt Rally at the start of lockdown stands out. That campaign helped convey an important message to a younger audience that the DCMS were trying to reach. As a byproduct, the campaign also proved how in-game advertising can deliver for good.

There are still a lot of negative stigmas around gaming. It’s not all blood and gore! During the first wave of the pandemic, gaming helped a huge part of society stay connected to our friends and family, keep ourselves entertained and, most importantly, improve our mental health and wellbeing. We also saw international sports stars, Grammy award winners and Hollywood actors involved in charity streams that were raising money for COVID.

COVID shone a light on areas of gaming that society has never seen before and because of it, perception of this entertainment medium started to change. Activations like the charity streams or the Dirt Rally and DCMS campaign, demonstrated that leveraging gaming as a channel can be an extremely effective way for advertisers to stay connected to the next generation of their audience and beyond.

Q: What is your favourite ad?

A: I can’t not mention Three’s ‘Dancing Pony’ or the kitten singing to “We Built this City ads. Two absolute tunes! But Adobe’s ‘Hovering art director’ series from a few years ago was very well done – and probably recognisable to people in our industry.

OK, so let’s take a closer look at a subject close to your heart – gaming. And, specifically advertising in gaming…

Q: Why should brands and advertisers be excited about the opportunities gaming offers?

A: The sheer number of entry points in gaming and esports can be daunting. It’s like going to a takeaway restaurant and being overwhelmed at the hundreds of items on the menu – you don’t know where to start!

A huge part of the gaming industry is about being creative and being creative can also mean thinking outside of the box. Digital advertisers have been so used to the inner workings of the ‘traditional’ channels that when they come to approaching gaming as a channel, they’re probably thinking, “Can I do banner ads?”. Yes, of course you can but you can push the boat out a whole lot further… For example, Gucci Garden and Roblox, Wendy’s and Fortnite, BMW and 5 of the top esports teams and SO MUCH MORE!

Brands and advertisers really should start approach gaming with a multiverse mindset if they want to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with their consumers.

Q… and where does addressable fit in?

I think the commonality here is where gaming is played, TV is watched. A large proportion of gaming is enjoyed on the biggest TV screen in the household. Similarly, most of the programmes we watch are viewed on the largest TV screen.

Q: What are some major do’s and don’ts for brands and advertisers wanting to get involved?

A: Do your research. It is important to understand where your brand can position itself in a new channel. Read reports, watch content about what opportunities there are, and surround yourself with people who know about esports and gaming. A starter for 10? Newzoo’s Gametech Ecosystem map.

Be brave and trust the experts. Build relationships with the gaming publishers and studios. They know the content inside out and will tell you what is possible, and what isn’t. For instance, BMW ran a campaign where they gave the reins to esports players themselves to create the messaging because the players know their audience better than any brand or advertisers. The players know what and how they like to consume content. Remember, they are essentially creators and influencers themselves.

And don’t…

Force your message. Promoting your message must be done the right way. Anything that doesn’t sit within the context and environment of the gaming title can put off your potential audience. Case in point, Monster Energy’s placement in Death Stranding led to some negative reaction from gamers as it seemed forced.

Give in to FOMO. Always think clearly about whether a channel is the right place to activate depending on your brand and what you want to achieve with your campaign. Just because you can (and others are), doesn’t mean you should.

Q: How can the industry build trust in digital advertising?

A: At TAG, we’re focused on increasing clarity across different channels when it comes to brand safety, and ensuring trust and accountability remains the same, if not higher, across new channels, such as gaming.

Things happen every day, if not every second, in digital advertising so it takes a whole village to maintain standards. The industry must band together, understand (and care) what is at stake, and to self-regulate to protect digital advertising and eliminate threats.

It’s about more people getting involved and caring about protecting the digital advertising ecosystem, so that we can work closely together to eliminate blind spots and threats to our industry.

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