New Data: New Investment Pours Into Gaming As Measurement Solutions Evolve

While global M&A activity slowed in 2022, VC still poured money into the gaming acquisitions as industry organizations addressed lingering concerns about in-game advertising and measurability.

2022 M&A Gaming Activity Surges 

For many VCs, gaming represents a safe haven amidst economic uncertainty, according to Kurt Ma, a corporate partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. Because gaming success is primarily driven by user experience, Ma stated powerful gaming franchises tend to produce reliable profits as long as users get their money’s worth.

“Gaming is quite different from a traditional business because gaming studios, on the whole, don’t get distressed in the same way,” said Ma. “You stand or fall on the strength of what you put out, and that’s true whether you’re a big player like Microsoft or an individual writing brilliant code in your bedroom.”

In 2022 M&A investment rose to $38.1 billion in 2022, up from $33.4 billion in 2021.

The flurry in M&A activity reflects an emphasis on strategic investment growth among VCs seeking to consolidate competitive advantage as gaming audiences and marketplace values rise. 

Per a recent report by DDM, M&A activity made 2022 a historic year for games funding.

“The investment landscape in 2022 has been hindered by a crypto winter, macroeconomic headwinds, high-interest rates, inflation, and recession concerns,” the report reads. “Despite these challenges, our data shows that 2022 was still the second-best year in the video game industry for games funding, mainly driven by acquisitions as large gaming corporations acquire mature and established businesses.”

That drive towards consolidation will likely continue, some analysts suggest.

“Despite the short-term turbulence, the deal activity will remain strong,” according to a recent report by InvestGame. “There is potential for a few significant deals to occur in 2023, as the industry continues to consolidate, supported by strong investors’ interest and enough cash to pursue transformative deals.”

According to Pitchbook’s Launch Report: Gaming report, many of 2022’s deals focus on emergent tech and monetization.

“Although VC funding is evenly distributed between early- and late-stage VC, the content segment has proven to be the impetus for most late-stage funding,” the report states. “Early-stage funding is skewed toward emergent technologies, such as Web3 infrastructure and generative artificial intelligence (AI), in addition to gaming content.” In addition, the report reads, “deal value is also flowing to startups helping content, and intellectual property (IP) owners monetize gamers.”

As new money flows towards proven gaming properties and audience monetization, measurement and addressability is becoming a priority in the industry.

Measurement Stays Top Of Mind For Gaming and In-Game Advertisers

In July 2022, The IAB and IAB Tech Lab, in collaboration with the Media Rating Council (MRC), in releasing its Intrinsic In-Game (IIG) Measurement Guidelines to provide updated measurement guidelines for in-game ads. The goal was to support agencies, brands and gaming platforms as the marketplace evolves and how audiences interact with advertising changes. A lack of understanding about in-game ad metrics is hindering in-game advertising investment, according to Jack Koch, SVP, Research & Insights, IAB.

“Buyers want to make good quality buys that align with their brands and drive all the way through to purchase,” said Koch in a press statement. “And while that is absolutely possible in gaming today, perception lags reality.”

Despite a global audience of more than three billion gamers, advertisers have yet to view game advertising as a platform for reaching a wide audience like they might look at social media, according to the IAB. A recent IAB-Mediascience survey of 40 brands, agencies, ad tech companies, game developers, and publishers revealed that gaming ads represented less than five percent of their marketing spend.

Social Commerce At SXSW 2023: What Brands Can Learn From China

China has been at the forefront of social commerce, with companies like Alibaba, WeChat and Taobao paving the way for a new era of online shopping. In contrast, brands in the U.S. are lagging behind in realizing the opportunities social commerce presents, but are also keenly aware of the transformations necessary to appreciate this growth.

While social behaviors are shifting in the U.S.—leading to a clear indication of social commerce growth—it’s the decision-making process and relationship between tech, commerce, creative, consumer insights and data that need to grow to realize the capacity for U.S. shoppers to be influenced by social engagements on any number of platforms.

“In the last 12 months, social commerce-based apps have taken a 10 percent market share away from traditional e-commerce platforms like Tmall in China,” says Qunin founder Thomas Nixon, who led Monday’s SXSW panel, Prepare for the Social Commerce Era and Look East!

Expanding at a 26 percent CAGR, China is on track to reach $1 trillion by 2025, representing 30 percent of China’s e-commerce market,” Nixon added. In contrast, social commerce is projected to be “just 6 percent of e-commerce in the U.S. and 5 percent in the U.K. by 2025.”

In order to pick up the pace, Nixon says brands need to overhaul how they think about consumers, products, sites—and their own organizations—outlining how they can take a page from China’s social commerce playbook and shift the already-evolving key differentiators in shopping and social behaviors leading to the divide.

This includes acknowledging the difference in how we define social commerce, even as that definition is changing—to move beyond a conflation of all e-commerce 1.0 with the peculiarities of social commerce.

Social Commerce Is More Than Never Leaving Social To Make A Purchase

According to Nixon, there’s a misconception among some marketers that the minimum qualification for social commerce is an ad that links through to a website. He says it’s also a misconception to think of it as necessarily taking place within one social ecosystem.

For me,” Nixon says, “there is a very, very different view on what social commerce is when working in the Chinese market versus working in other international overseas markets. … When you’re operating in a dynamic social-first market like China, you very, very quickly begin to understand, learn from and observe certain behaviors that tend to lead to a different way of thinking.

Remaining within a connected social ecosystem when making a purchase is part of this, Nixon notes, but it’s not social commerce, in totality, since it’s not really “social.

“True” social commerce relies on a number of touchpoints across apps, motivated by a growing trust in and democratization of Key Opinion Consumers, or KOCs, the rise of group shopping, an increasingly always-online population, the DTC model, cross-generational mobile tech adoption and gamified experiences.

This marks a shift from social commerce as a purchase made on social media, to purchases motivated by online social behaviors that just happen to take place in or across those ecosystems. In actuality, the “ecosystems” in question span a range of apps that all act as different constellations connecting the social shopping experience. And they’re heavily franchised.

“Forty-two percent of all unicorns in Asia are invested in by Tencent or Alibaba,” Nixon notes.

Source: China Trading Desk

With this in mind, it’s better to understand approaches to social commerce as requiring a shift from traffic, product and site-based ends, to a more customer-centric focus. It also means an approach to social commerce that anticipates future shopping behaviors rather than recapitulating those of the recent past.

A Different Approach To Social Commerce

To prepare for the social commerce era, Nixon suggests companies adopt a customer-centric online presence, differentiated consumer operations and cross-functional collaborations, as well as omnichannel synergy and CRM across the journey.

Nixon outlines a three-point overhaul based on current limitations in approaches to social commerce outside of China. These include:

  1. Overhauling consumers: A major problem for marketers is the limited profiling and lack of clear segmentation to adequately understand social commerce opportunities.
  2. Overhauling products/sites: These currently lack the insights that social commerce apps provide and have outdated commerce and marketing operations, and products are not developed nor priced with social commerce in mind.
  3. Overhauling organizations/teams: Organizations are working in silos or along a linear decision-making path. Instead of a linear model of workflow, consider positioning a digital specialist at the center of a process wherein consumer insights, commerce, tech, data and creative work collaboratively rather than in discrete, progressive steps.

Part of initiating these changes involves a revamped design thinking process, which Nixon notes has been the blueprint for successful social commerce engagements in China.

In brief, design thinking begins with a period of inspiration. During this phase, marketers should first understand the market through research, observe the market themselves and then define a POV. Following that, a process of ideation, in which ideas are developed, prototyped and tested, leads to the final phase: implementation. In the implementation phase, storytelling, pilots and business models are put into action. (Read more about design thinking here.)

Brands that have seen success with this approach include Pizza Hut, Lancôme and Philips. For Philips, the secret to the six-fold growth of its Home Appliances GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) was the following:

“Build incremental value through livestreams and content, connect with users within the WeChat ecosystem, facilitate the linkage between public and private traffic and establish differentiated content to achieve long-term relationships with users and promote the conversion of potential customers,” Nixon says.

Breaking it down further into a three-step management strategy for WeChat livestreaming accounts, Philips Home Appliances achieved 6x GMV with the following steps:

  1. “Cold Start Period” – Divert private traffic to livestreaming by integrating with other WeChat features such as mini-programs to pre-heat consumer engagement.
  2. “Livestreaming Strategy” – Adjust live content and pricing strategy based on consumer preferences.
  3. “Stable Traffic” – Increase public traffic and accelerate private domain Click Throughs via personalized WeChat service and livestreaming to improve backend conversion rate.

The Transformation Is Already Happening

Senior U.S. marketing leaders are already invested in these overhauls to capitalize on a shift toward social commerce, bridging otherwise disconnected sales, product and marketing processes. 

At the Tuesday morning featured session, A New School of Leaders Transforming the Marketing Experience, Unilever’s Conny Braams discussed why she ditched the “marketing” in her previous title in exchange for the title of Chief Digital and Commercial Officer as the company undergoes digital transformation

“I think the most important challenge and opportunity for fast-moving consumer goods … is probably the creative commerce revolution,” Braams said.

She went on to explain how the company is approaching social commerce and the necessity for similar overhauls.

“You’ve announced me as the Chief Digital and Commercial Officer, and often, people are mistaken [about] why Unilever, as a big marketing company, would drop marketing from the title of one of the execs, and basically, that isn’t the case. … We’ve added sales to it,” Braams said. “That’s how it became ‘Commercial Officer.’ And the reason for this [is because of the external] convergence of entertainment, media, commerce [and] content. We basically said, ‘You know, if I sell something via Facebook or Instagram, later on probably via Netflix, is that marketing, or is it sales?’”

Braams noted that previous organizational structures and approaches to e-commerce were not adequate for social commerce and creative commerce—and shared why she has positioned herself as a digital specialist at the very center.

“You can’t really distinguish [sales vs. marketing] anymore,” she continued. “So we’re blurring [the] lines between marketing and sales internally to respond to what is happening externally. … We’ve taken marketing and sales together to really make sure that we build brands and convert to sales at the same time with all the new channels that are developing.”

In October of 2021, Unilever launched its Positive Beauty Growth Platform, an initiative to help the CPG giant partner with scale-ups and start-ups linked to social commerce in the beauty space.

IAB Playfronts: Gaming Is A Gateway To Gen Z And Gen Alpha

There are more than 3 billion active gamers in the world, yet marketers often overlook games and gaming platforms as a powerful way to connect with multigenerational audiences. Nonetheless, gaming ad revenues nearly doubled between 2019 and 2022, topping $8.6 billion. According to Zoe Soon, VP of The Experience Center, IAB, gaming is a global cultural force that is providing marketers with new ways of connecting with consumers, from millennials to Gen Alpha. We spoke with Soon about the upcoming IAB Playfronts and some of the takeaways marketers could look forward to at the 2023 event.

What is new this year at IAB Playfronts? 

Over the last year, we have seen the gaming ecosystem explode, and advertisers are starting to understand this audience’s importance. We will have two days diving into the ecosystem of gaming with presentations discussing the effectiveness of gaming, audience insights, and highlighting best practices for driving campaign ROI.  

This year’s presenters include Samsung Ads, Activision Blizzard Media, Anzu, Niantic, Twitch, Zynga, and more. Attendees will also hear more of IAB’s editorial voice. We have a panel with leading brands Ally, Mondelez, PepsiCo, and beauty brand Coty, all talking about how they’re leaning into gaming to reach audiences. We also have a panel with agency leaders talking about brand safety in gaming. Any new advertising channel goes through scrutiny when it comes to two things: measurement and brand safety. So we wanted to meet those buy-side questions head-on.

Additionally, we launched the PlayFronts Partner Hub this year, a space to let attendees find and connect directly with presenters while at the event when questions and inspiration strike. The partner hub will feature seven of our presenters. 

How are marketers feeling as they deal with all the uncertainty of 2023?

We are in a downturn market, yet marketers continue to lean into gaming. This is a signal to the industry that gaming is increasingly moving out of the ‘experimental’ budget. One thing savvy marketers have not lost sight of is that gaming is not just a great way to connect with their current consumers, it is also the gateway to Gen Z and beyond. Having been born into the worlds of Fortnite and Roblox, Gen Alpha will inhabit both virtual and physical spaces. Gaming is the first step in connecting with audiences who will eventually straddle both worlds. 

What are some takeaways for marketers after the conference?

There are limitless possibilities for advertising in the gaming industry. Gaming is going to be on more screens than ever before, and we’re seeing a lot of brands come to the space. At the conference, attendees will walk away with consumer insights, an understanding of new and creative ad innovation, and the future of the gaming landscape for brands. Far from being a subculture – gaming is globalizing entertainment and culture. A better understanding of the gaming influencer’s and esports’ power in the gaming ecosystem. This year we’re proud to feature gaming talent in the show because it is important to us that this is not an advertising event about gaming, but that we bring together the gaming ecosystem and co-create a marketplace the way only IAB can. Last but not least, the IAB will unveil some proprietary research that will debunk common myths in gaming.

Learn more about IAB Playfronts.

Demand Generation And Brand Marketing With David Fossas, CMO At Restore Hyper Wellness

In this episode, David and I discuss the mission of Restore Hyper Wellness, the relationship between demand generation and brand marketing, and the dangers of marketers confusing being purpose-driven with being cause-driven. David talks about the siloing and diminishing of the CMO role and how concepts like “Team One” and taking a critical look at new growth titles could help remedy this.

David Fossas calls himself “The Accidental Marketer” but is actually an accomplished marketer who has worked with over 35 brands, including General Motors, Verizon, HP, Visa, and Philips. He currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for Restore Hyper Wellness, overseeing consumer experience, marketing communications, and revenue operations to drive business growth and brand value. David emphasizes an adaptive approach to being a CMO and the importance of acting as a thought partner to the CEO and CFO. He also touches on topics such as the untapped potential of marketing, the true purpose of purpose-driven companies, and the impact of ongoing digital transformation.

 In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why David sees demand generation and brand marketing as dependent on each other
  • What is leading to the CMO’s influence over “the 4 Ps of Marketing” diminishing and ideas to reverse course
  • The reasons why not every brand’s mission and purpose need to align with a social cause

 Key Highlights

  • [01:45] Meeting Jean Claude Van Damme
  • [03:30] From Hollywood aspiration to CMO
  • [06:30] What is Restore Hyper Wellness
  • [09:30] The potential of marketing and the role of CMO
  • [13:25] Importance of partnerships with other players in the C-suit
  • [15:15] New growth titles and the specialization of the CMO role
  • [19:00] The relationship between demand generation and brand marketing
  • [22:15] The challenge of identifying upper funnel activity that drives conversion
  • [23:30] Purpose and how it relates to marketing
  • [27:35] Finding financial freedom and leveraging an entrepreneurial spirit
  • [29:25] Focus on understanding business early on in your career
  • [31:00] The importance of developing a holistic view of marketing
  • [32:40] Brands to watch
  • [34:50] Losing your influence is losing your impact

Resources Mentioned:

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 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.

Game Marketers Find Playable Ads Most Effective Tool For Driving Game Installs

A new report states that playable ads are the most cost-effective format for driving consumers to install gaming apps. Their effectiveness depends on each marketer’s ability to use social intelligence to bring the right ad to audiences at the right time.

Playable Ads Offer Low Costs, Bigger Returns

“With an average CPI of $1.31, playable ads are by far the most cost-effective option for driving installs for gaming apps,” The Mobile Ad Creative Index by Liftoff reads. “This is unsurprising since they offer attractive opportunities for audiences to try before they commit.”

Liftoff reviewed close to one trillion impressions across 24.5 billion clicks and 240 million installs between January 1, 2022, and January 1, 2023, and found that playable ads CPI was significantly lower than the average $3.79 CPI from all five ad formats for gaming.  

Source: Liftoff

Mobile Gaming’s Boom, Consumers’ Hesitant Spending

According to The State of Mobile 2023 by, mobile gaming is experiencing a user engagement boom, but how much consumers spend depends on how well marketers craft their messaging. Mobile game downloads grew by 6.6 billion to nearly 90 billion in 2022. That means consumers are still engaging with mobile games despite inflation concerns and are now spending more even as game publishers offer new ways to play games for free, like engaging with ads. 


In Q3 of 2022, gamers spent $1.54 billion per week on gameplay, according to This represents a 25 percent increase over pre-pandemic spending but a decrease in year-over-year (YOY) spending. Yet, as consumer confidence in the economy rose in Q4 2022, per Deloitte, so did spending on mobile games.


While consumers remain concerned about the rising cost of living and most intend to be judicious about their spending, there is a slight decrease in the share of consumers who are pessimistic about the economy’s direction, according to Deloitte.

Source: Deloitte

What This Means For Marketers

Consumers may be more willing to spend when they perceive value in the experience because of slightly greater confidence in their finances. However, according to recent Deloitte data, that intention may be mitigated by a significant decrease in consumers’ intention to spend on discretionary items and experiences over the previous quarter.

In 2023, marketers will be competing for a shrinking portion of consumers’ discretionary spending. Developing a connection by allowing consumers to “try before you buy” via playable ads may be the most efficient way to convince spend-hesitant consumers to commit. Recent data shows that only six percent of consumers would rather pay a fee than engage with or watch an ad to access play. That makes 96 percent of consumers open to engaging with ads in exchange for playing time—a willingness to branded messaging that contradicts consumer trends on other platforms, where most consumers use ad blockers as a matter of routine.

Quick List: Reasons Playable Ads Are Popular Among Gamers

  1. Interactivity: Playable ads allow gamers to interact with a product before they make a purchase decision. This provides a more engaging experience and helps to build a stronger connection between the gamer and the product.
  2. Entertainment Value: Playable ads often feature mini-games or challenges that are fun to play. This provides a break from traditional ads that are often seen as intrusive and annoying.
  3. Discoverability: Playable ads allow gamers to discover new products or games they may not have otherwise known about. This can be beneficial for both the gamer and the advertiser, as it provides an opportunity for exposure and potential sales.
  4. Trust: Playable ads can also help to build trust with gamers, as they allow the gamer to try out the product before making a purchase. This can help to increase confidence in the product and the brand.

Less Than Half Of Black Consumers Feel Understood By Brands

According to a recent report by MyCode, just 38% of Black consumers feel understood by major brands. Now beauty influencers like Ami Cole are making the leap from online to in-store sales, opening up new opportunities for retailers to win over skeptical consumers.

Brands Seeking To Connect With Diverse Audiences Should Start With What Consumers Want

A recent McKinsey survey revealed that Black consumers would shift 30 percent of their current spending—approximately $300 billion—to products designed to deliver quality and function that meets their needs.  

“By 2024, the buying power of the U.S. Black population is set to reach $1.8 trillion,” reads a recent NielsenIQ report. “Yet despite this, their needs are still not being met by many beauty and personal care brands.

Despite that $300 billion play up for grabs, the beauty industry, a segment earning a significant share of Black consumers’ discretionary spending, has some catching up to do. Based on the fact that the Black population is 52 percent female with an average age of 33 (5 years younger than non-Black demographics), beauty brands and retailers have a potential audience that ticks all of the boxes yet remains relatively untapped. From the McKinsey report:

  • Black consumers are three times more likely than non-Black customers to walk away from a retailer dissatisfied with their hair care, skincare, and makeup options.
  • Black consumers drive 11 percent of beauty spending, but only 4 to 7 percent of beauty brands carried by retailers are brands created for Black consumers.
  • The median revenue of beauty brands targeting Black consumers was “89 times higher than what non-Black beauty brands return over the same period.” 

Reaching Black consumers eager to shift spending to a brand that understands their needs may fall to marketers rather than brands. Consumer spending drives product development, and recent successes among Black beauty brands illustrate Black interest in finding products and services that are crafted for them. Marketers who find the right mix of clear messaging and authentic value to the consumer may win a piece of that $300 billion pie.

When Black Consumers Find A Product That Works, They Support It Wholeheartedly

According to the MyCode report, only a minority of Black consumers feel that marketers understand their needs. That fact may leave retailers and brands out of a growing and increasingly multi-ethnic demographic. Black consumers often spend more on haircare and beauty products—reaching this demographic can be an important driver of business growth in the future. Black consumers support brands that align with the values that matter to them in addition to delivering quality and meeting needs, recent research shows, and they are willing to pay as much as 20 percent more to purchase those types of products, according to Mckinsey.

However, authenticity is key to reaching any demographic. Take the Fenty Effect, for example. Fenty, helmed by Rihanna, earned billions in just one year using a powerful strategy: showing the audience that the cosmetics promoted matched the complex tones and shades that fans and other consumers struggled to match with many other brands. That simple idea, for many consumers, was revolutionary.

Fenty brought a new generation of consumers used to hunting for foundations in multiple drug stores and department stores. Fenty’s brand messaging was about meeting a need in a way that demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the audience and what drive’s their purchasing. Today new influencer-fronted brands like Ami Cole are launching at Sephora and bringing products previously only sold online into retail stores. 

The Takeaway:

For brands, reaching a young, motivated, and product-focused consumer means delivering on the basics—function and quality—while listening to what consumers are saying on social and in customer feedback. The “Fenty Effect” shows that Black consumers are ready to spend on products that target their needs explicitly and consistently. 

Narrative Economics With John Connors, Founder & CEO Of Boathouse

In this episode, John and I discuss Narrative Economics, how it works, and why marketers may need to reevaluate their use of Brand Management theory. John tells us how Boathouse uses data and AI to empower brands to understand their true narrative and evaluate how it aligns with their desired narrative. Boathouse employs strategies like “news-jacking” and “social-jacking” to manage and leverage their client’s stories in a way that drives engagement and aligns with their goals and values.

John Connors has spent his entire career in the advertising industry. He founded Boathouse in 2001 after serving as CEO of Zentropy Partners and being part of the McCann World Group Management team. At Boathouse, John and his team use Narrative Economics to help brands manage and leverage stories by overseeing both the strategy and execution.

 In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How narrative economics works in practice
  • What Tesla and the Catholic Church narratives have in common
  • How narrative economics can help CMOs reestablish power

 Key Highlights

  • [01:30] On the farm and off the grid
  • [02:50] The path to Boathouse
  • [04:00] Boathouse overview and national scaling plans
  • [08:15] What is Narrative Economics
  • [11:20] Remembering a conversation with Phil Kotler
  • [14:00] How Boathouse tested its tools before talking to clients
  • [16:20] Using AI to monitor what is catching on and what isn’t
  • [18:25] Artificial Intelligence + Human Intelligence
  • [20:30] The lifecycle of a narrative
  • [22:30] Why Narrative Economics should matter to the CMO
  • [25:20] Use cases
  • [27:00] A hard lesson that taught John what matters in life
  • [28:20] Don’t chase other stars. Lean into your own strengths
  • [29:20] Think about why and how marketers embrace brand management
  • [30:00] Brands to watch
  • [31:30] Rethinking how marketers approach the c-suite

Resources Mentioned:

 Follow the podcast:

 Connect with the Guest:

 Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth opportunities. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies but is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine companies.