Frontline Marketing

Activision VP Asks: Will Medium Matter?

By | April 29, 2014 |

The rapidly changing environment for game marketers is nowhere more turbulent than in social media. We’ve seen companies large and small trying a variety of strategies in social media, and there’s certainly no standard template for success. The [a]list daily caught recently with Activision’s Jonathan Anastas, vice president of global brand marketing, the company’s head of digital and social media, to discuss Activision’s views on the subject of social media and brand marketing.

[a]list daily: What’s the biggest challenge for brand marketers in social media, and what’s the biggest opportunity?

Jonathan Anastas: There are several challenges, but they are more than offset by the huge opportunities.

Jonathan Anastas

I’d prefer to start with the opportunities.

For decades, brands have been dependent on various media gate-keepers, often bucketed into two types. First, there were the editors and reporters and producers that you had to convince to give your brand time/space/positive affirmation in the “earned media” space. You needed to get by them to have access to their audiences and you needed their support for the message to be brand positive. On the paid side, there were simply costs associated with generating reach. Be it a Super Bowl ad, a YouTube masthead, a homepage take-over, reach was pay to play. Now, brands can build, aggregate and engage their own audiences, often with greater reach than the old media third parties. Look at Redbull or DC shoes on YouTube, Starbucks, etc. on social media.

In terms of challenges, marketers are beholden to other’s platforms and their policies. In addition, their well being overshadows your brand’s well being. A perfect example is Facebook’s changes to the organic reach algorithm. Brands are reaching 20-40 percent fewer of their fans than this time last year with each post.

We’re also challenged with platform proliferation and fragmentation. Each with their own best practices. Brands are managing four to eight platforms or more. That’s a ton of content creation and a ton of time spent and a ton of best practice development.

Lastly, given the level of engagement with social media and the money that now needs to be spent, the C-suite is looking for sales attribution or brand value improvement metrics. It’s too big to be a “test bed now.

[a]list daily: How has social media changed game marketing over the past year, and what changes do you foresee in the next year or two?

Jonathan Anastas: One of he biggest changes is noted above, and it’s a big one. There’s a huge amount of platform proliferation and fragmentation. SnapChat and WhatsApp have more MAUs than Twitter. We also have to look at things like “Will Medium Matter?” as new players jump in.

The second piece that’s changed is the volume of these social interactions that take place on mobile devices. Well over 50 percent now. That changes the asset best practices and the way the platforms themselves are used to interact w/ brands.

[a]list daily: As more and more social channels become significant, such as Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and others, does that make it more difficult to maintain a consistent brand across the channels?

Jonathan Anastas: Brand consistency is fairly easy. That’s style guide enforcement. What’s hard is the development of true effective uses for each platform — best practices — as well as normalizing reporting and metrics. Is a Re-tweet the same as a share? Is a re-pin better or worse?

[a]list daily: Will we see more emphasis on social media going forward Is game marketing shifting more to individual relationships rather than traditional broadcast marketing?

Jonathan Anastas: To me, it depends on the category of gaming, the genre of gaming, the target, the platform, etc. Not by accident, almost every platform has added a “cost per download” product. That’s great for apps. If you’re a kid’s product, you have some issues w COPPA and reporting against those under 13 and determining if you are reaching the kids directly or not, is it a parent play, or a blend?

If you want to sell 10 million or more copies of a console game, TV is not going away yet. At that point, you’re breaking into the “blockbuster” game buyer, who may only buy one or two games a year and is not a deep follower of the genre or your brand. They may buy Halo in 2012 and GTA in 2013 and play Words With Friends in-between the two when not watching Netflix or playing Minecraft. I’m not going to convert that buyer on my Twitter feed.

[a]list daily: How has the changing social media landscape affected your marketing spend and resource allocation?

Jonathan Anastas: Like most other marketers in the world, and most other publishers, we are always looking at our marketing mix and spend and trying to move the right money to the right medium against the right people at the right time. You’ve likely seen us move to both ends of the spectrum at the same time: bigger, longer, more cinematic linear video content that drives pop culture conversation with the music and the cameos and you’ve seen us double down on a YouTube channel that has 2 million subscribers and 500 million views or a Facebook community of 23 million fans. We’re also taking a “mobile first” approach to video distribution, social content and more. We design the websites knowing half the traffic will come from a non-desktop device.

[a]list daily: With Skylanders reaching a very young audience, how does the social media marketing change for that group They aren’t using social media like the Call of Duty players are, that’s for sure. Do you target parents directly or indirectly?

Jonathan Anastas: You’re asking about one of the marketing nuts we’re putting the most brain power behind. Being fully compliant in all marketing to kids rules, we’re limited in the consumer insights we can glean directly. So we have to reverse engineer models where Study A says “50 percent of kids under 13 have a Facebook account” and then you look at your own dashboard and say “if I were 11, would I say I was 15, or would I say I was 40.” And those numbers vary by platform. It’s unlikely there are may 6 year-olds on Twitter, but there are probably a ton of 11 year-olds on Facebook. Thus, we take a more parent-centric tone and content approach on one and a more dual audience approach on the other. We’re always paying attention to what’s required by the ESRB and COPPA.