Total US Games Industry Sales Reach September Record Of $4.4 Billion

According to The NPD Group’s September US games industry sales report, consumer spending on video game hardware, content and accessories reached a September record of $4.4 billion, a 3 percent increase when compared to a year ago. Year-to-date (YTD) consumer spending reached $42.3 billion, a 12 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2020.

Starting with hardware, NPD found that September sales surged 49 percent year-over-year (YoY) to $412 million while YTD hardware spending also gained 49 percent when compared to the same period a year ago, totaling $3.4 billion.

September’s best-selling hardware platform in both units and dollars was PlayStation 5. In dollars, PlayStation 5 is also the best-selling hardware platform of 2021 YTD, while Nintendo Switch leads in units.

This month marks the end of Nintendo Switch’s 33-month streak as the market’s leading platform in hardware unit sales. The last month that a platform other than Nintendo Switch dominated the market in unit sales—PlayStation 4—was November 2018.

The full-game dollar sales September spotlight is on Madden NFL 22, the best-selling game of the month and the second best-selling game of 2021 YTD. The game was the best-selling game in September on both PlayStation and Xbox.

Tales of Arise set a new launch month dollar sales record for any Tales Of franchise release, coming in as the fourth best-selling game of September according to NPD.

Life is Strange: True Colors, which launched in September, was the 10th best-selling game and generated the highest launch month dollar sales for any Life is Strange title to date.

WarioWare: Get It Together, which also debuted in September, landed the 15th spot for the overall best-selling game of the month, while also ranking second on Nintendo Switch. In addition, it achieved the highest launch month sales for a WarioWare franchise release since WarioWare Smooth Moves debuted on Nintendo Wii in January 2007.

Moving on to mobile spending, data for which was provided by Sensor Tower, the NPD reports the market exceeded $2 billion in consumer spending in eight of the nine months of 2021 to date including September. The average monthly mobile gaming spending is about 28 percent higher than that experienced in the first nine months of 2020.

September’s strong mobile games performance in the US was in part due to the second highest-earning title, MiHoYo’s Genshin Impact, which celebrated its one-year launch anniversary with spending up nearly 120 percent month over month.

Among the top-performing mobile titles in the US by consumer spending in September were: Candy Crush Saga, Genshin Impact, Roblox, Coin Master, Garena Free Fire, Pokemon GO, Homescapes, Clash of Clans, Bingo Blitz and Candy Crush Soda Saga.

When compared to a year ago, September spending on video game accessories dropped 12 percent to $171 million. YTD accessory sales reached $1.8 billion, a 9 percent increase YoY.

Once again, the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Coordinator was the best-selling accessory of September, while the PS5 DualSense Wireless Controller White remains the top-selling accessory of 2021 YTD.

The NPD Group’s total video game sales figure reflects total content spend on video games, including full-game, downloadable content, microtransactions and subscription consumer spending across console, cloud, mobile, portable, PC and VR platforms. For its assessment of the broader consumer spend on the industry, the NPD utilizes its monthly point-of-sale tracking services and consumer data from other NPD trackers, monitors and reports.

Game Consoles Are Occupying More Time In Consumers’ Lives

Today’s consoles provide a different kind of value to consumers. Beyond gaming, they offer an online network to communicate with friends and form relationships, an arena for a spectator sport with fervent followers and a device to stream TV, movies and music.

Confirming that sentiment is a new report from Hub Entertainment Research, “Game Consoles 2021: Respawned and Leveled Up,” which found that game consoles are occupying more time in the lives of many consumers as spend, usage and ownership have all experienced an increase since the pandemic started.

While 36 percent of respondents said they play console games about the same amount as in 2019 (33 percent), 51 percent of console gamers told Hub that they play every day—up from 39 percent two years ago.

Forty-two percent of console gamers who play at least once a week told Hub that they’re playing their consoles more this year than last vs. only 32 percent who said the same thing in 2019.

Game sessions are about 20 percent longer this year. In 2021 weekly console gamers estimate their average session is about 110 minutes, up from about 90 minutes in 2019, according to Hub.

Ownership of multiple game consoles is up too. The share of all players ages 13 to 74 who play console games is about the same in 2021 as in 2019—36 percent vs. 33 percent—however, the density of ownership is considerably higher. Hub found that in 2019, just a quarter of console gamers owned both a PlayStation and an Xbox but in 2020, more than a third of respondents said they own both.

In addition to owning more consoles, gamers are also spending more on games. 53 percent of console gamers said they spent more on gaming this year than last vs. slightly more than a third who said the same thing in 2019.

Thirty-nine percent of weekly console gamers said they buy digital copies of console games at least a few times per month—up from 25 percent in 2019. Another 38 percent regularly download downloadable content or expansion packs for games they already own—up from 22 percent two years ago.

As engagement grows, so does the impact of in-game advertising. Hub’s data show that 70 percent of regular console gamers play titles with branded in-game content—up from 61 percent in 2019. Among those exposed to in-game advertising, 44 percent said they prefer in-game ads to regular commercials and 72 percent said that branded downloadable content makes the game more fun to play.

Lastly, the role gaming has played in helping consumers maintain relationships during COVID can’t be overlooked. More respondents mentioned communication or connection with friends as a reason for gaming than in 2019. Plus, 45 percent of weekly console gamers told Hub they have at least one in-game friend that they’ve never met in real life.

Hub Entertainment Research’s findings are based on an online survey conducted among 2,601 US consumers ages 13 to 74, including parents of kids under age 13, in late August and early September 2021.

Tapjoy: 73% Of Millennials Shop On Mobile 1-4x Per Week

Millennials are approaching their prime purchasing years and are expected to spend over $1 trillion annually moving forward. Tapjoy tapped into these consumers for its annual Modern Mobile Gamer 2021: Millennials Edition, surveying 5,028 millennials on the MobileVoice by Tapjoy network in Q1 through Q3 2021. Respondents opted in to participate in the survey in exchange for in-game rewards or premium content. 

According to Tapjoy’s findings, millennials use their smartphones for everything, but predominantly for gaming and shopping—70 percent play mobile games daily and 73 percent shop on mobile up to four times per week. But to truly understand this group’s engagement with mobile, one must first understand their background. 

The youngest millennials were born in 1996 and the oldest in 1981, with about half of the millennials on the Tapjoy network being parents. This cohort’s upbringing has been marked by consistent periods of strife—from 9/11 to the war on terror to multiple recessions to the pandemic. And while their baby boomer parents grew up in times of professional and economic prosperity, many millennials face growing college debt, stagnant wages, inflation and excessive home prices.

Like Gen Z and unlike baby boomers, millennials are tech-savvy, socially aware, active on social media and almost always have their mobile phones on them. One of their defining features is that economic struggles affect almost every facet of their lives – from whether to buy a home to how many children to have to how they engage with brands and ads. For insights into millennials’ behavior toward mobile gaming, mobile shopping and mobile ad engagement, see Tapjoy’s findings below.

Mobile Gaming

Mobile is millennials’ gaming platform of choice. Tapjoy’s research shows that 86 percent of millennials use smartphones for gaming while only 37 percent game on console or handheld and only 27 percent game on PC. Additionally, roughly 75 percent report playing mobile games on any given day.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the amount of mobile gameplay as 73 percent of respondents said they played more mobile games, 59 percent downloaded new gaming apps and 42 percent experimented with new gaming genres. Consequently, millennials are now more receptive to mobile games than they were before the pandemic.

Despite the fact that millennials are relatively easily drawn into the free-to-play ecosystem, they are almost just as likely to play mobile games based on humorous or creative advertising.

Mobile Shopping

Mobile is the go-to shopping platform for millennials, with 80 percent saying that they make mobile purchases “often,” according to Tapjoy. Among their top mobile purchases are streaming services (74 percent), to-go food and restaurant delivery (66 percent), clothing (55 percent) and beauty products (46 percent). As with mobile gaming, mobile shopping also increased during the pandemic—a phenomenon showing no signs of slowing down.


Having grown up with political, social, economic and environmental front-and-center, millennials tend to hold their values in high regard, prioritizing them in every aspect of their lives including which brands they support. Close to half of millennials said that a company’s values, from sustainability, diversity and employee treatment, factor into whether they accept a new job and which brand they buy from.

Ad Engagement

Being extraordinarily receptive to ads with a value exchange, 55 percent of millennials engage with rewarded mobile game ads more than other ad types and 63 percent reported enjoying engaging with rewarded ads via offerwalls—more than any other age group Tapjoy surveyed. To engage millennials with ads, the ad must get to the point quickly, be non-intrusive and humor should play some part in grabbing their attention, found Tapjoy.

Brand Engagement

In order to seize the attention of the millennial audience, brands must convey social awareness, be active on social media, and be engaging with short videos, memes and social posts. Forty-one percent of respondents reported following brands with funny and engaging content while 55 percent do so if the brand treats employees well.

Family Dynamics

As previously mentioned, economic issues have impacted how millennials engage with their families and whether they choose to start one of their own. Tapjoy’s data mirrors other studies showing that millennials are delaying having children. Of those surveyed in Tapjoy’s study, only half are parents—compared to 72 percent of Generation X. Similarly, millennials are substantially less likely to be married compared to older generations. Nevertheless, 74 percent have one or two children, and 27 percent have three or more children. 

Education and Career

Compared to other generations, millennials are remarkably educated, especially when it comes to holding advanced degrees. Unfortunately, this hasn’t guaranteed them financial freedom. Older millennials reached adulthood during the dot-com bubble and Twin Tower attacks and subsequent recession. Other millennials graduated college amid the Great Recession or its aftermath. As a whole, millennials are more likely to be unemployed than Gen X and deem fair treatment and a work-life balance equally as important as the income they earn.

General App Habits

Overall, not all millennials can be grouped together in the context of general app habits. Older millennials, for example, open their social media apps when they wake up in the morning and before they fall asleep at night, according to Tapjoy. They’re particularly attached to social media and use it as a tool to socialize, network, remain informed and research new products to purchase. 

In addition, 71 percent use the Facebook app, 62 percent use mobile gaming apps, 62 percent use Instagram, 37 percent use TikTok and 31 percent use Twitter. During the pandemic, 64 percent spent more time on mobile.

Amazon Prime Video Celebrates ‘Now Screaming’ With QR Code-Enabled Pop-Up In L.A.

Ahead of Halloween—on which US spend is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion this year—Amazon Prime Video has created a dedicated streaming page called ‘Now Screaming’ and a complementary costume pop-up shop in Los Angeles.

The landing page features all the horror content titles already live on the platform and as a tie-in, the company is holding court in West Hollywood via a pop-up called ‘The House of Horrors.’ Open for the entirety of October, the space is currently being promoted by Prime video creators, the company’s influencer partners, including Emma Norton, Duke Depp and Madi Monroe. Collectively, they boast more than 45 million followers on TikTok.

Amazon is taking full advantage of the slow but steady return to in-person activations. According to Los Angeles Times data, 75.9 percent of Los Angeles County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 67.1 percent of residents of all ages have received at least one shot and 59.7 percent are fully vaccinated. Still, the tech giant is playing it safe. While the House of Horror pop-up includes a custom shopping element, in Amazon fashion it’ll enable a swift shopping experience—visitors can scan QR codes to shop the store’s costume displays and have them delivered to their doorstep. 

Amazon Original shows that inspired the pop-up’s costume selections include The Voyeurs, Black As Night, Madres and I Know What You Did Last Summer. And no Halloween pop-up would be complete without an Instagrambable moment, which is why Amazon has installed a candy kiosk, a selfie mirror and a photo booth, which according to the press release “will create their own chilling movie still.”

Though still in the beginning stages, the streaming wars continue to heat up. With the plethora of premium subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming options available for consumers to choose from, Prime Video is finding new ways to engage its audience, for example with the pop-up and the Gen-Z influencers it chose to promote it. In May, Amazon made history when it became the first all-digital streamer to acquire exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. In addition, though long broadcast on CBS, the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards will be exclusively livestreamed on Amazon Prime Video. 

Whatever else Amazon has up its sleeve, it must roll out quickly because according to a Whip Media survey conducted among 4,000 US viewers about their perception of SVOD services, only 6 percent of respondents listed Prime Video as their first choice while 41 percent listed Netflix as their top choice, followed by Hulu (21 percent), HBO Max (13 percent) and Disney+ (9 percent).

Among the movies being streamed on Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Now Screaming’: 30 Days of Night, Ju-On, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Jennifer’s Body and The Fog (1980).

The House of Horrors pop-up is located at 8551 Melrose Avenue and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Trick-or-treaters can expect a special activation from October 14 to October 16 to celebrate the debut of I Know What You Did Last Summer with OPI, as well over the Halloween weekend.

Game Publishing Costs: What Every Developer Needs To Know

Editor’s note: This article has been updated as of September 2nd, 2021 to correct Ben Walsh’s title and role at A List Games.

As the Senior Director of Business and Product Development at A List Games, I’m the individual responsible for finding talented developers to work with. I then evaluate those developers and their games before I conduct my due diligence on their teams. After championing those projects, those games then go through ALG’s greenlight process. Once greenlit, I shepherd the developers through the development process, ensuring that they’re able to create the best game possible within the budget and timeline.

I’ve been with A List Games since November 2020 and began my role as the Director of Development. In May 2021, I adopted the business aspect of my job and have been enjoying the challenges ever since. 

Prior to A List Games, I founded and grew an independent studio of 20 individuals—Pure Bang Games. After having engaged with game development and publishing in one form or another for over two decades, I’ve recognized several issues related to the costs associated with publishing. As a follow-up to my colleague Steve Fowler’s game marketing guide, I’m sharing the costs developers and publishers should budget for and why neglecting certain costs could spell disaster for a project. 

Publishers, whether on the boutique side or the AAA side, have a set of services that they provide—nothing more, nothing less. A List Games, on the other hand, is a bespoke publisher that tailors what they do to their partners’ needs. This dynamic allows for developers to do what they do best and leave everything else, including any issues or holes in the process, to the A List Games team. Developers looking to be featured are advised to start building relationships before the development process. Luckily, A List Games has the network to make that a possibility.


The first cost publishers should take into consideration is the cost of development. Simply put, this equates to the initial outlay necessary to pay developers, which typically comes in the form of an advance on royalties. To developers, it’s like a contractual work-for-hire arrangement with the promise of upside on the backend in the form of rev share.

When building out budgets, one crucial area of development costs that many developers fail to note is overhead—computers, software, rent and other requirements associated with staying in business. 

Developers should also decide whether the game is going to have an early access or soft launch period. If so, the budget must include a liveops budget. It’s typical to plan for three to six months of continued development in a liveops scenario. 

There are instances where people underestimate how long it takes to polish a game. The issue with this is that the most difficult part of developing a game comes at the last 20 percent. While most believe that figuring out the game, implementing the core functionality and other up-front tasks are the most difficult, it’s actually after all of these are in place that you have to ask, “Is it fun and how can we make it more fun?” For this reason, I always suggest developers add 20 percent to their schedules.

Internal Costs

Of all internal costs, labor costs the most.  From business development and labor to quality assurance and project management, production is the true traffic controller. Depending on the scale of the project, there might be social producers, executive producers or a director of production that manages the entire production department. Regardless of the number of producers, production is often unseen and undervalued. 

As the glue that holds everything together, production is the department that reviews milestones, reviews and approves builds, interfaces with accounting, communicates with all other departments and ensures that marketing and development are on the same schedule. It also conducts game evaluations, ensures quality control and communicates with first parties like Microsoft, Sony or Steam.

One other area of internal costs worth mentioning is the quality assurance (QA) team. For companies with a pipeline of games, the QA department can be fully utilized around the clock. Without a consistent pipeline of games, those in the QA department become functionality testers, which gives the developers another group of people testing their game. This ends up becoming an added cost for publishers.

In this scenario, the QA team conducts functionality tests, though sometimes their task can comprise narrative testing to ensure that elements of gameplay and the story are consistent with and true to the brand.

Another area of internal costs is product management – a hybrid role between project manager and designer. The product manager is typically focused on KPIs, specifically, revenue. Many companies I’ve worked with skimp on this cost given that it’s relatively new and thus there aren’t many people who are experienced with it. The pool of people who have even five years of experience managing a liveops game is still relatively small.

So, a product manager who can look at the game in the beginning and offer design guidance, coming back to nudge it in the right direction toward the end, is key. 

Due diligence and evaluations are two indispensable internal costs that are sometimes overlooked. At times, a publisher may sign a deal with the studio head without ever having spoken to anyone else at the studio. The issue with this is that one can ever be too careful. Every publisher must be aware of and confident in the team behind the studio head. For this purpose, a due diligence team is imperative. Despite the cost, risk mitigation can’t be stressed enough.

Another internal cost that companies tend to neglect that they shouldn’t is usability and focus testing. Early usability testing is advised, even if the testers are “ninjas,” i.e., family members, friends or individuals not necessarily associated with game development. Having these testers play the game while the developer watches them take notes is invaluable. Receiving their comments to make improvements to the user experience is important once the game is in open beta. This cost could fall into the third-party cost category unless the usability testers are in-house.

The last internal costs worth mentioning are legal costs and business development, which include first-party relations and licensing.

Third-Party Costs

Depending on whether a developer is doing retail or going on console, age rating requirements may be necessary and potentially varied for different regions. For example, what would be rated for a 10-year-old in the US may not pass in Australia or the UK. China is a perfect example of how geopolitics plays into age ratings. China has rules against certain types of games such as gacha games, and aspects such as zombies and the display of blood of any color. Consequently, maintaining an awareness of which regions a game will be sold is necessary for efficiency and avoiding legal issues down the line.

It should be noted that age ratings are only important if you plan on doing retail or console, given that mobile and PC don’t require age ratings in the same way. The trick with Age ratings is that they’re concerned with what is on the disc, not just what the player sees in the game. There have been instances where moderators or hackers made changes to anatomically correct characters to remove their clothing, effectively going against the age rating of the game. Developers must keep a close eye on these sorts of occurrences.

One third-party cost that companies can’t fail to consider is customer service: who is handling the returns, who is engaging with angry customers, who is answering questions about how to do something in a game? Most companies don’t consider customer service in their plans or take it seriously until there is an influx of returns or negative reviews. Addressing this before it happens is advised, and it’s a role that can be outsourced or internalized. Typically, if the game is very successful, the developer should outsource customer service to a call center.

The Bottom Line

There are several costs within the three categories of publishing a game I outlined above. While no one cost is indicative of the success or failure of a given game, there are some that must be prioritized and internalized. To anyone publishing a game or in the process of doing so, remember to maintain an unwavering focus on the gamer’s experience, as that is the light at the end of the tunnel. To get there, adhere to best practices, don’t skimp on anything mentioned above, give your production department the authority and resources they need to get the job done and your project will have the best chance at success.

Highlighting The Human Element In Marketing Through Audio With HubSpot’s Alanah Joseph

Alanah Joseph is the Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot, responsible for marketing and operations of the HubSpot podcast network. 

In this episode, Alanah and I discuss her role in driving brand awareness and increasing listenership for its shows and the long-term strategy behind launching a podcast network.  

“Just as product requirements have grown and changed over time, so have people’s content needs. Alanah and HubSpot believe podcasts will fill that role and that companies and brands will seek out audio for inspiration and solutions to business problems.

Listen as Alanah explains the strategy behind a podcast network and how it elevates content creation to ultimately help customers become better software users and better business practitioners overall.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Leveraging other creators to help spread your message
  • Creating opportunities for growth via collaboration
  • Highlighting the human element in marketing 

Key Highlights:

  • [01:20] Alanah is ambidextrous
  • [03:00] How Alanah ended up managing the HubSpot podcast network
  • [05:11] Transitioning from written content to audio
  • [07:28] HubSpot’s long-term content strategy
  • [09:25] The vision behind the network
  • [11:11] Working with content creators and podcast hosts
  • [14:24] What Alanah has learned about workflow and content creation
  • [19:20] What (and who) has made Alanah who she is today
  • [20:53] Alanah’s advice for her younger self 
  • [21:57] A topic Alanah thinks marketers should be learning more about
  • [24:23] The brand and organizations Alanah follows
  • [27:11] The biggest threat and opportunity for marketers 

Resources Mentioned: 

Subscribe to 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 opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Spotify Advertising Releases Global Trends Report

According to Spotify Advertising’s annual Global Trends Report, Gen Z is eager to leave virtual events behind in light of in-person experiences, unlike their millennial counterparts who’ve more readily accepted virtual events like concerts. Titled Cultural Rebirth, Spotify’s report includes valuable insights about millennial and Gen Z’s audio consumption and how advertisers can act on their shifting tastes. It frames its findings through the lens of two generations navigating a common goal: rebuilding culture by listening, creating, discovering, and magnifying new voices.

The global pandemic placed something of a pause on Gen Z’s development, making 2021 the year that they prioritized searching for connection and meaning about themselves and the world around them. Despite reporting more feelings of loneliness through the pandemic, music and podcasts have helped, as 66 percent of the demographic reported. 

Spotify’s data also shows that Gen Z is actually taking over the platform. In May 2021, for example, there were 75 percent more ‘Gen Z’ playlists streamed than ‘millennial’ playlists. Moreover, there was a 235 percent year-over-year (YoY) increase in playlists created with Gen Z-specific keywords and a 343 percent YoY increase in streams to Gen Z-specific playlists.

Millennials have experienced a different set of challenges over the last 18 months. As they ventured into their careers and started families, expectations of work-life balance went out the window. Nevertheless, audio entertainment has become the go-to source for connection, information and self-care, with some millennials reporting a “strong emotional connection” with favorite podcast hosts.

The two age groups do, however, overlap on the goal of inclusivity. Both agreed that now more than ever, we as a culture are open to hearing from diverse voices as 53 percent of respondents report having sought content from diverse creators and podcasts in the past year.

Millennials and Gen Z recognize the importance of balance, and in particular, the importance of self-care in an increasingly cluttered world. To this aim, they’re balancing their intake of media after a year of lockdown bingeing, and are using audio as a form of enrichment rather than pure entertainment. 

Audio as a tool for stress reduction is employed by 83 percent of millennials and 69 percent of Gen Z. Luckily, the current state of audio allows for an array of genres and podcasts for any time and every mood.

As millennials and Zs incorporate audio into all areas of their day, from morning rituals and self-care routines to study sessions and workouts, brands have the opportunity to become a part of any activity, especially given that listeners are more receptive when messaging matches their mood. Brands looking to make the most impactful impression should lean into contextual targeting and create the appropriate tone and message for the moment.

Additionally, given that the more we hear something, the more we like it, brands can sponsor Spotify On Repeat playlists for listeners who can’t get enough of certain songs in order to increase positive sentiment. And in the realm of podcasts, short knowledge drops that spark curiosity tap into listeners who are already in a learning state.

In the arena of gaming, audio plays a crucial role in how satisfied a Gen Z gamer is with their experience. Spotify’s research shows that 57 percent of Gen Z gamers believe that audio can make or break the experience of a game.

When it comes to marketing, Gen Z gamers who game daily are 1.6 times as likely to pay attention to brands mentioned in a game than those who don’t play as frequently. And given that hardcore Gen Z gamers engage with the gaming community even while not playing themselves, for example via podcasts and online forums, the opportunity for increased brand exposure is present. In Spotify’s most popular gaming podcasts among Gen Z, hosts discuss gaming experiences and which tech brand took their craft to the next level—a welcome opportunity for brands in this space.

According to the report, “collaborations are changing the sound of culture.” With 34 percent of Gen Z Spotify users claiming to have searched for a song on the app after hearing it on social media, interconnectedness in the modern era has facilitated the discovery of new content with ease. Spotify has capitalized on this by promoting playlists of emerging artists that fit within a certain user’s tastes and that align with a brand’s campaign theme, e.g., exercise playlists for a sneaker retailer or GRWM (Get Ready With Me) playlists for a beauty brand. These playlists automatically update to adapt to shifting campaign themes and seasons in part, to ensure that a brand’s message is never out of place.

According to Spotify, “audio has become the ‘it’ source of information and entertainment for a new generation,” which is evinced, in part, by the fact that Gen Z influencers are creating their own multi-platform podcasts more frequently than ever before. Globally, millennial’s and Zs’ trust in traditional societal institutions is lower than ever. Nevertheless, they want to remain engaged and informed, so they’ve turned to a medium they feel brings them closer to the truth: namely, podcasts.

In this context, host-read ads produce notable increases in emotional connection as compared to Voice Talent ads. This is no surprise given how intimately associated with podcasts hosts their listeners are. As long as the Voice Talent ads are under 30 seconds and the Host-Read ads remain conversational, brands can expect to penetrate a new subset of listeners here.

Given that both millennials and Zs seek greater inclusivity, Spotify has committed itself to keep up with the social climate by allowing for activist creators to magnify the viewpoints of traditionally underrepresented peoples. The majority of Gen Z audio creators believe that the current climate is more open to hearing diverse voices than ever before. Brands engaged in film and media can convey their support for marginalized communities and other social issues through audio spots that explain how a certain film or filmmaker addresses a meaningful topic. Other brands may choose to sponsor forward-thinking creators and podcasts to represent to listeners how forward-thinking the brand is itself.

With 50 percent of Zs having sought content from more diverse creators and podcasts in 2021, there is one more way they’re exposed to varying viewpoints and experiences—through what Spotify calls ‘Scene & Heard.’ Here, roaming vagabond audio creators have the opportunity to take listeners on audio tours of the places and experiences that have shaped the creator’s social identity, creating a more intimate connection and more trust.

Cultural curation has become a critical pillar of artistic expression among millennials and Zs, and is a crucial element of where culture, in general, is headed. While millennials create to keep audiences interested, Zs curate as a way of developing artistic identities, with 64 percent reporting that digital tech has made it easier to be a cultural curator.

And despite the prevalence of playlists over the last 20+ years, they’ve only recently become a medium for artistic expression. Millennial creators, in particular, have used playlist curation as a way to ensure cultural relevance and support their own art, with 67 percent citing more pressure than ever to be a cultural curator.

This area is ripe for brand engagement through branded playlists, editorial playlists and user-generated playlists. Brands may choose to pair a product or service with a related playlist, or target Zs in their user-generated playlists to engage with a certain mood or activity and with a message to match the moment, for example, something upbeat during an exercise-inducing electronic playlist or something relaxed during a playlist full of binaural beats and lo-fi hip-hop. For larger endeavors, brands can even have their own talent create playlists while offering fans exclusive content recorded by the talent themselves.

The report cites one phenomenon that all successful brands have likely incorporated into their strategies by now—aligned passions and stances on social issues. Audio is ripe for reaching those who believe that this medium has shaped their exposure to the world, with 73 percent of millennials and 57 percent of Zs reporting streaming platforms have significantly shaped how they discover and connect with the broader culture. In this context, collaborations, in particular, stand to expose more listeners to different cultures in a way that appears natural. 

Here, brands have the opportunity to align with listeners in a setting in which minds are already receptive to new ideas. Brands should lean into some of the less-known microgenres or genre-less playlists that Zs, in particular, engage closely with by sponsoring a playlist or creating an audio spot in the same musical style as the one at hand. 

Further, as all are aware at this point, millennials and Zs don’t take kindly to being boxed into certain roles or expectations—misconceptions of what a male or female should or shouldn’t engage with are antiquated. This new normal has created the perfect opportunity for brands to showcase their forward-thinking, socially aligned and barrier-breaking identities to potential consumers who value these elements in a brand.

The pandemic radically shifted millennials’ lifestyles. Work-life balance, parenting strategies, family planning and self-care habits have all changed. Home is still the center of everyone’s lives as opposed to one place of many where we spend our time; as a result, audio listening on home-based devices has increased in the U.S. by as much as 82 percent on TV and 30 percent on smart speakers. Notably, in-car listening on Spotify has increased by 124 percent. And in a time when 68 percent of US millennials and 56 percent of Zs report smaller communities or fewer—the need for connection is at an all-time high. 

Brands can seize this moment by reaching listeners wherever and whenever they are, making up for lost opportunities to engage in public spaces. And given that listeners using smart speakers, game consoles or desktop computers are likely listening while partaking in other activities, brands can tailor their message or call-to-action according to the type of activity likely matched with the playlist or genre. 

As social circles and engagements dwindled during the pandemic, podcast popularity increased—creating the perfect opportunity to reach listeners who trust their hosts as though they were “friends” through unscripted endorsements. The fact that there is no image accompanying the message is of no consequence, as 62 percent of millennials reported using their imagination to picture audio adverts.

To capitalize on these recent developments and trends, brands can utilize Spotify’s Ad Studio, where creative services are free and performance can be measured through real-time reporting on ad delivery, performance and audience. Given the relatively recent boom in podcast popularity, podcasts remain an unsaturated area for advertising, especially given that globally 66 percent of millennials and Zs report listening to a podcast weekly. Spotify’s Audience Network allows brands access to targeting tools in order to reach listeners based on demographics, audience segment, genre targeting and contextual targeting.

Terry Crews Launches Virtual Production Studio Amen & Amen

When Los Angeles halted in-person film and TV production last year, actor and entrepreneur Terry Crews took on a role he’d never played before: nurse. Going into what he calls “battle mode,” he spent the better part of lockdown caring for his wife Rebecca King through her breast cancer diagnosis and a double mastectomy. To make a challenging situation more difficult, he faced an all-out attack from the internet over his tweets regarding the Black Lives Matter protests.

Out of the darkness of 2020, Crews created a state-of-the-art launchpad for the next generation of storytellers, named Amen & Amen.’ His new virtual production studio is set to open in Pasadena, California in late July. Equipped with furniture designed by Crews and cutting-edge technology that accelerates the filmmaking process, the small, pandemic-proof space will play a big part in Hollywood’s messy recovery and beyond. 

So what does the pec pop king and father of five know about building a virtual production studio? At first, Crews admits, not a whole lot. But after propelling Old Spice into the fan culture stratosphere, immortalizing Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” illustrating a children’s book, writing two books (most recently, a memoir with his wife, Stronger Together), and leading a prolific acting career without formal training, no order is too tall. Ahead of the feverishly awaited eighth and final season of his sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, airing on August 12, we spoke to Crews about his latest venture.

Click here for a tour of Amen & Amen with Terry Crews and David Rielly, group creative director of’s

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Nina: I saw on your Instagram that you rang in 2020 in Shanghai. You come home and shortly after, quarantine and Black Lives Matter protests are underway. Where’s your mind at?

Terry: When the George Floyd incident happened, I actually went on CNN and was asked to speak because of an Instagram post I put out that basically said I could be George Floyd. I have experienced very, very violent racism in my life. I don’t know too many people who have had four police officers point their guns at their head at a traffic stop, and that was me. This was back in 1982 when I was on the Rams. And then once the country was tending to get very, what I would call “segregated,” I saw the need for all of us to work this thing out together. 

About a week later, I put out a tweet that said, “Defeating White supremacy without White people creates Black supremacy. Equality is the truth. Like it or not, we are all in this together.” My issue was the fact that everyone needs to be involved, be it white, Asian, Hispanic, every nationality, every gender needs to be included. And I wanted to be very, very succinct in what I said. But it really blew up all over and it caused a huge backlash on the internet. But I stood firm and I followed that up by saying it doesn’t matter what race, what color, creed or denomination, I’m going to stand with good people, no matter what. We need to include everyone at this table because what we had and what we still have is an amazing opportunity for all of us to really see each other.

What did a typical day in quarantine look like for you?

This quarantine was especially difficult because my wife was recovering from a double mastectomy right before the world shut down. My wife was diagnosed in early February with stage one breast cancer, and it took us for a loop. She took this like a warrior and she attacked and she said, you know what? I’m going to go in and get my treatment and let’s make this happen right away. so we scheduled a double mastectomy. And it was a miracle because that was right before everything started to fall and everything started to shut down. She came out of the hospital probably a week before they called all of the quarantine actions in L.A.

So I was taking care of my wife during this whole time. We had no caregivers in the house. We had no housekeepers. We had no one even coming through. I was her nurse for roughly five months straight, on top of all of these things happening in the world. So it was a really tough, tough first five months of the quarantine.

I decided, OK, I’m going to go into what I would call battle mode. I had to be strong for my family. But one great idea that came out of the pandemic was my virtual studio. I decided that I was going to build one of Los Angeles’ best, most incredible virtual production studios that it’s ever seen. This is what I was consumed with during the entire pandemic. I mean, every day I would go down there and work on and find out what else we needed.

When did you first have the idea to create Amen & Amen?

The first time I got the idea was back in May last year. We had to come back and do judge cuts for America’s Got Talent and we were the first production to go back to work in the middle of a pandemic. I saw the technology of this AR (augmented reality) wall. It was this small, pitch LED wall technology that we used to create virtual environments for the acts. And I went… “Oh my God.” When I saw it, I went, oh, this is the future and I need to be a part of this.

We decided that small was going to be the new big because the thing about Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is my sitcom, is that we could not go back to production simply because there were 400 people in the crew and cast all working in close proximity.

What was your vision for Amen & Amen?

One thing about Hollywood is that most of these studios are filthy because they’ve been there for 100 years. But I thought, OK, we’re going to do this small and clean. I was actually looking for a gym because I was going to make my own little gym. I found this beautiful place on Maple Street in Old Town [Pasadena, CA] that used to be a stable for the firehouse, which is now a studio next door. And it was open. I couldn’t believe it. We grabbed it.

We redid it from the inside out. And I mean everything. We redid the bathrooms and I had these special, Neorest toilets, which I call the Lamborghini of toilets, put in. We redid the air conditioning with a UV system that cleans the air. We insulated the place; we have a handheld mobile UV light that they use in hospitals that would disinfect all of the equipment every night; we have a handheld UV light that you can run over all the keyboards and anything that’s touched by human hands would be clean. We had ‘Purell’ stations put in, and it has a little outdoor area with seating. So only the people who are necessary could be inside.

We put in outdoor professional steaming units that steam all of the doorknobs, I mean, we went in. You’re going to be safe when you come through our doors because I’m liable for the safety of my employees, the safety of my family and any client that will come through there.

I think small is the new big because this virtual wall creates any environment you want.

Tell us more about the virtual wall.

What we found using Unreal Engine is that you can actually digitally create the foreground, and this is one thing they did on AGT (America’s Got Talent). Unreal has created all of these wonderful virtual environments that they were giving away for free. And we were like, what?! It’s groundbreaking.

One thing we decided to do was go all in because once I saw this, I said, wait a minute. The vision was to create a full-fledged movie. You wouldn’t even have to do the turnarounds. What you do is turn the background around, not the actor. It was so sick because all you would need is a 3D play of any environment and you could be anywhere and no one would know the difference, which was so scary. We got the best, best pitch LED wall we could afford. The wall we have is at 1.2 [pixel] pitch.

We were like, “OK, we’re going to need one wall.” And then we found out we would do better to get a dog-leg, so we have a 20-foot wall by a 15-foot wall. This creates the environment fully so you’d be able to get lighting. It gets people’s faces off the other wall while you’re in the background. It was really, really difficult at first because the whole time I was like, this might all be a mistake. But, to me, it’s worth it. I said, “if we do this right, if we just make our mistakes quickly, we’ll be able to adjust on the fly.

What style were you going for design-wise?

I’ve always been a big fan of Milk Studios, the one down in LA… because it’s so classy, oh, it’s a beautiful place. Like if you got a photoshoot at Milk, you know it’s ‘the big time.’ I wanted the studio to compare with Milk. So we put walnut on the walls at Amen & Amen. We upgraded every detail of the studio. We changed all of the lighting and made it really clean and beautiful.

We’re still working on it every day. There are always little things we’re adding. We added bookcases. We basically outfitted the whole place with the furniture that I’ve designed—my new armchairs, my sofas, my benches, my tables. We wanted it to feel like you would never want to leave. It feels a little bit like Melrose Place, but it’s in Pasadena, you know what I mean? And we love Pasadena.

Who do you hope to work with and what do you hope to work on at Amen & Amen?

Well, first of all, I plan on doing a full film that I wrote there. This is the ultimate goal—to show people, “Wow… you can do this from beginning to end.” We’ve had so many people who’ve come and vetted it. I’ve had the head of Disney, Paul Briggs, who directed Raya, come through and give us all kinds of advice on the workflow that they do at Disney. He recommended this technology called Bluescape which is basically like Pinterest for projects, so we put up two giant touch screen monitors adjacent to the wall. I was just so thankful.

Then I brought in the AGT guys that create all these wonderful video packages for all the acts. They helped us decide what camera system would work best with the wall so we got a RED KOMODO because it has a global shutter so it captures everything on the wall perfectly.

And I had the DP from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, my man Rick Page, come down and he was like, “Terry, do you know what you can do in this thing?” And I was like tell me, tell me!

We also hooked up with Stargate [Studios], which is in South Pasadena. Sam Nicholson, a leader in virtual production, came by and audited our studio. He’s been pivotal in coming through and helping us build this studio. Right now we’re about to get all our volumetric lighting, which is lighting that attaches to the ceiling that changes color to the background. So let’s say you’re in the desert and it’s a hot day, that same sun will play against the volumetric lighting in that color, which will be indistinguishable from you being in the real place. It’s unreal.

A company called AR Wall came in and created the tracking system. They have proprietary software that allows the camera to move perspectives inside of every environment. So when the camera moves, it looks like it’s there. I mean, the background moves. And you just go, “oh, my God, you would never know.”

I never ever thought, I know what I’m doing. We don’t even know, even now, the capabilities of what this could be. But we’re finding out day by day because the technology is changing so fast every day, and we’re ready. 

What role do you hope Amen & Amen plays in fostering the next generation of artists?

Artists have the hardest time owning their own ideas. If you write a novel, you can own it when you sell it. But if you write a script, you don’t. I’ve been on sets where the writer has never been invited to watch, which I think is a shame.

A lot of times it’s their vision but Hollywood has a way of taking things and yanking them from people and it’s lost forever. I’m not saying people are evil, but what I’m saying is that when you’re viciously competing, things get really, really weird. And artists don’t want to be a part of that. They just love to create.

Here in Amen & Amen, with this technology, people can create their own intellectual property from start to finish, at least in some sort of iteration. Let’s say you have a graphic novel. You can do it stylized. You can actually do a film.

This is going to be my big test when I start. In the fall, I plan on doing this movie I wrote in the studio to show people it can be done from the beginning to the end and you can create your own IPs, own your IPs, and if someone wants to expand it or take it, make it bigger—that’s up to you, not up to them.

You’ve played an array of characters — from Latrell Spencer in White Chicks and President Camacho in Idiocracy, to Hale Caesar in The Expendables and Terry Jeffords in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Is there anything that unites these disparate roles?

Yes. One reason why I think I’ve been able to last is that they’re all a version of me. They’re all Terry Crews. Remember, I never went to acting school and I didn’t start acting until I was 30 years old. So everything I had was just me to go off of. It may not be the studied way, but it was the way I knew to do it because I said, man, I just have to be myself. When you are yourself, the characters become alive. The truth is when you’re acting, it doesn’t really work. It looks a little “ehh.” But every character you see is really, really talking out of their own experience.

I heard that Amen & Amen created puppets based on your previous film and TV characters. Tell us about them.

I got a lot of backlash for things I said and people got really, really mean on the internet. So I created this puppet who basically represents every troll. He hates Terry Crews. He really dogs me out. All those mean tweets or mean things that people say, he’ll say to me, but he’s me. And we call him Lil Terry.

Then I created AGT Terry, who I call AG Terry. He’s my angel. He’s like, you’re the best. I love you. He cheers me on. Then I have President Camacho who deals with political things. And then I have Julius Terry from Everyone Hates Chris who kind of deals with financial stuff, like saving money. I have another puppet of my wife, who is much cuter, and there’s a puppet of my son.

We got together with a brilliant company that created these puppets that really look scary… like you touch them and it’s got skin. It’s not a Muppet. He’s like a really distorted version of me. We’re going to do a reality show with the puppets that we could do at the house. 

And actually, I really want my puppet to have his own branding deal. There are a lot of things that people may not see Terry Crews right to represent, but that the puppet Lil Terry could be perfect for. There’s some product, something somewhere, that may not be me, but the puppet Terry could work in any kind of advertising situation.

My whole philosophy has always been go ahead and try it. If you can do it, do it and see what happens. You know what’s funny? People do not remember my failures. And there were plenty of things I did that sucked, and no one ever comes up to me about those. They come up to me about things that they love. The same goes for building a studio — we’re just going. It’s totally for experimentation and freedom. I don’t need to make money. I have other things for that. This whole thing is just to try stuff. The funny thing is that you end up making money when you do that.

It feels like whoever follows you on your social channels gets to experience the genuine Terry Crews. What community or brand-building tips do you have for creators and brands, perhaps even for your son and rising star Isaiah Crews?

My biggest piece of advice is to team up. I like to share. Terry Crews by himself? Ehh. But me in an ensemble—wonderful. I’ve always done better working with other people. All the way down to a 30-second TikTok. I teamed up with Michael Le and his little brother Jonathan, and we did a TikTok that went so viral. It’s almost at 100 million views.

The team up is everything. Like when Supreme does a new backpack with another company, you know what I mean? I’ll never forget when Dior did the Air Jordan shoe.

That’s me. I want people to go, oh, man, he would be great with so and so. And I have to say this, too, because I worked with Ayzenberg on my Crackdown 3 deal and it was so great. Right now, Dave Batista is trying to do Gears of War and he’s always brought me up. I told him I would love to do this with you. So I’m putting that energy out in the universe. Because my thing is you’re much, much stronger when you team up. And that’s the title of my wife and I, our book, Stronger Together.

Do you have a dream brand partner?

Old Spice was iconic. You can’t really beat it. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even think that relationship will ever be surpassed. You can get as good but Old Spice, man, those guys, it was incredible. I also did a Nike campaign before the Old Spice stuff. I would love to regroup with Nike or another fitness brand like Adidas. I said this to David [Rielly]—I don’t mind selling. Terry Crews is for sale. That’s why I pop my pecs. But what I’m selling is health, wealth, and love. That’s the Terry Crews brand all the way.

When I say wealth, it doesn’t mean being richer than anybody. It’s about having wealth through your experiences. Living life to the fullest and doing things all the way makes you wealthy. Health being I love fitness. I love being in shape. I love the fact that I’m 52 and have the energy to hang out with the 25-year-olds. The third thing is love, and that we all truly have to love each other. Love is literally the energy of the universe. It makes your world operate. Once you find out what it is and who it is you love, now you know your purpose.

You have dozens of brand deals and commercials under your belt—have you noticed one factor that sets successful creative apart from not-so-successful creative?

The story is paramount. I am really good friends with Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Those guys did The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. They’re amazing. They actually directed the pilot for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Oh, and they are story mavens.

The creatives who know how to tie in a story and make you care, they continue forever. Look at James Cameron, from Terminator to Aliens all the way to Avatar. The story is so big, every time those movies are on I have to watch.

Even in advertising, what’s so amazing is that they know the brand story and they’re able to tell it so that you can get it. I’ve never seen it fail. Where I’ve seen creatives fail all the time is when they make you look at bells and whistles. Like this looks like a commercial, but it’s basically a rip-off of everything people have ever done.

When do you plan to officially open Amen & Amen?

I would say we’re about a month away. I’m getting a star on the Walk of Fame on July 30th, which is my birthday, and July 29th is actually my anniversary. So it’s a big, big week. We’re going to have a huge party for about 200 people at the studio as our giant summertime coming out, and I call it “My Love Letter to Pasadena.” We knew in July the world should be pretty much open. We are requiring that our guests be vaccinated.

We are going to be very, very picky about who gets a chance to be here because the technology is so good and it’s also very, very delicate. Right now, though, I do want it to be a total experimental place. There are certain people that I said, “just come here and experiment.” One of the organizations I want to come and just experiment any time they want is Ayzenberg.

You’ve built a custom gaming PC with your son. You and your wife recently launched your audiobook Stronger Together. You’re about to open Amen & Amen. You’re back as the host of America’s Got Talent. You even have your own cryptocurrency now. The list goes on. What venture or medium are you eyeing next?

I want to own a farm. There’s some property I’m looking at where my grandmother lives in Edison, Georgia. One thing I got from the quarantine is that I need outdoor spaces. I thought I liked football, but what I really liked was playing outside with my friends. I went to Iceland with Bear Grylls and had the time of my life because we were outdoors, and I realized I need more of that. A farm would give me that. It would give me this connection to the Earth, where I could just be out there tilling the ground, watching something grow, and taking it from the seedling all the way to my table. That would be hot. That’s hot!

Reddit, Burger King And Warner Music Win Grand Prix At Cannes

This year’s in-person Cannes Lions was canceled due to the pandemic, but the show will go on. The creative marketing community has convened for Lions Live, the virtual version of the international festival. Each day members can tune in for a live broadcast of sessions, which are also available on demand. The winner of each awards category is being announced during “Daily Awards Show,” which comprises five 90-minute virtual shows covering 28 award categories and hosted by Juan Señor in Cannes. Ahead, a roundup of the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winners so far, including H&M, Burger King, Reddit and more. See the complete list of winning brands here.

Design Lions

H&M “Looop” by AKQA Stockholm

Giving new life to old clothes, the world’s first in-store garment-to-garment recycling system was featured in this spot AKQA Stockholm created for H&M. The brand installed the waterless and dye-less system on the second floor of their store in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden.

First launched in Hong Kong in 2018, the 40-foot-container-sized system was tested in a warehouse in Stockholm before it was purchased by H&M. Surrounded by sound-proof glass and stationed atop an anti-vibration floor, the system operates with zero impact on neighboring businesses or shoppers. 

Shoppers can head upstairs to witness the eight-step recycling process, including ozone sanitation, shredding, cleaning, fiber web, slivers, high speed rotor, ply yarn and knitting.

Outdoor Lions

Heineken “Shutter Ads” by Publicis Italy Milan

Ensuring the survival of bars destined to shut down permanently after the pandemic, Heineken redirected its outdoor media investment from out-of-home (OOH) advertising dollars from billboards and bus stops to closed bars’ shutters.

Over 5,000 bars across the globe participated in the sustainable media buying venture, themselves earning a combined 7.5 billion, and earning Heineken 40 percent more media value than the traditional OOH. The venture was so popular, other beer companies followed suit.

Creative Data Lions

Warner Music “Saylists” Rothco, Part of Accenture Interactive Dublin

Warner Music decided to help children with speech impediments by developing an algorithm that analyzes over 70 million songs and categorizes those with particularly helpful repetition patterns and sounds to make typically boring speech therapy fun. 

Direct Lions

Burger King “Stevenage Challenge” by David Madrid

Burger King sponsored the lowest-ranking football club in England’s lowest-ranking division – Stevanage F.C., placing their logo in FIFA ‘20. 

BK then launched the Stevenage Challenge, calling on players to sign the league’s best onto the Stevenage team and post their goals on Twitter in return for free grub. The campaign produced over 25,000 shared goals, made Stevenage the most-used team in career mode and caused shirts to sell out for the first time ever.

Social & Influencer Lions

Reddit “Superb Owl” by R/GA San Francisco

Reddit crashed Super Bowl LV with a five-second spot. It spent its entire marketing budget on that slot, which is why it excluded celebrities, actors and even a script.

The ad aired after the world learned about the David versus Goliath story that was Gamestop – a battle that rages on even to this day. The message highlighted how powerful it is to rally around an idea, and how Reddit is the place to do just that.

Over 300 news outlets covered the spot, which earned over 6.5 billion impressions and caused the actual site to crash after a 25 percent increase in traffic. Plus, it was the most-searched ad of Super Bowl Sunday.

Media Lions

City of Chicago “Boards of Change” by FCB Chicago

To encourage more black voters to vote in the 2020 presidential election, Chicago launched a campaign called Boards of Change, constructing voting booths out of strand boards that were once used to prevent Black Lives Matter rioters from damaging buildings. The result: a record number of voters.

Creative Strategy Lions

Cheetos “Can’t Touch This” by Goodby Silverstein & Partners San Francisco

Everyone knows you can’t touch anything after you’ve eaten a bag of Cheetos. The company has embraced this truth and the messy residue it leaves on fingers in a campaign with an average Joe discovering all of the obligations he’s freed of due to cheesy fingers. MC Hammer, and his iconic phrase “Can’t touch this” helped officially launch the brand’s Cheetos Popcorn. 

Entertainment Lions

Asics “Eternal Run” by Edelman London

Asics invented a race without a finish line in its new campaign that takes place in Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. The idea was to determine if, with the technology in the shoes, 23 runners would run farther than they predicted for themselves.  The spot amassed 1.7 billion impressions plus 71 percent ran farther and 71 percent of consumers who saw the campaign said they’d choose Asics.

Entertainment Lions for Music

Mercado Livre “Feed Parade” by Gut Sao Paulo

Brazil, home of the world’s largest Pride parade, was forced to cancel 2020’s festivities. Mercado Livre, who normally sponsors the event, decided to sponsor a virtual version of the parade by inviting influencers to tag themselves on an Instagram feed of Brazil’s most iconic avenue. Next, one of Brazil’s most famous LGBT artists released a music video featuring the Instagram handles of the 60,000 people who participated. As a result, engagement was up 1,200 percent above average, 63 million people were impacted and the spot earned 500 million impressions.

Entertainment Lions

Sinyi Realty “In Love We Trust” by Dentsu McGarrybowen Taipei City

In Taiwan, ‘marriage’ also means ‘build a home.’ But having the highest divorce rates in Asia and the second highest in the world means home building is steadily decreasing.

Sinyi Realty addressed the phenomenon with a campaign in which they created a new term, “The Age of Doubting Marriage.” The campaign’s film aimed to encourage young people to not be afraid of marriage. Key opinion leaders kept sharing, thus sparking celebrity commentary. The result: 14 million views and 2020’s most popular ad in Taiwan.

Industry Craft Lions

Dove “Courage is Beautiful” by Ogilvy London

Dove paid its respects to front-line healthcare workers battling the pandemic and saving lives with a campaign that featured workers’ faces immediately after removing their protective gear. The brand also displayed the names of the doctors and nurses featured in the film. The message was simple: courage is beautiful.

Digital Craft Lions

Epic Games “Astronomical” by Epic Games, Inc. Cary, North Carolina

Fortnight and Travis Scott partnered up for a one-of-a-kind in-game concert. The event features a 30-foot tall Travis performing a brand new track, one that reached the top spot on the charts post-concert. The virtual concert was a boon to the game: 12.3 million Fortnight players watched live and 27.7 million unique players in-game participated 45.8 million times across five events.

Film Craft Lions

Libresse “#wombstories” by Chelsea Pictures Los Angeles

In confronting the narrative young women are taught about their period, wanting and having children, and other issues surrounding periods and reproduction, Libresse’s 2020 campaign gives a voice to the unknown or unspoken truths about women’s periods, vulvas and wombs. 

An all-female team of animators and illustrators anthropomorphised the womb and creatively depicted what happens inside a woman’s body when she’s on her period, having intercourse, experiencing period cramps or giving birth, to name a few.

Pharma Lions

Woojer “Sick Beats” by Area 23, an FCB Health Network Company New York

Children with cystic fibrosis are forced to wear airway clearance vests that allow them to cough up mucus in their lungs, a routine they describe as “the worst part of the day.” Woojer discovered that 40 hz is actually as effective at loosening mucus as traditional CFS therapy. In response, they made a vest that syncs to a child’s phone, pulls those frequencies from music on Spotify then delivers them to the child’s chest. They scanned Spotify’s 30 million songs and pulled those containing the 40 hz tone.

The campaign featured clips of children wearing the traditional vests before unboxing and wearing Sick Beats vests. The difference in their behavior is awe-inspiring.

Health & Wellness Lions

Essity “#wombpainstories” by AMV BBDO London

Essity chose to address the fact that 62 percent of women do not feel they can talk openly about their experiences by asking them how they felt. They animated and illustrated their stories by anthropomorphising the womb, embracing all of the love and all of the hate for the womb. Women became braver and began sharing their experiences. These experiences were then recycled and compiled to create the world’s first pain dictionary and digital pain museum. 

The result: over 100 million views, increased market share (8.1 percent UK, 14.1 percent RU, 9.9 percent DK), 200 percent increase in followers, and best of all – no more shame.

Lions Health

COPI (Central Office of Public Interest) “” by AMV BBDO London

COPI’s campaign attempted to address the reality that roughly 8 million (25 percent) addresses in the UK have air pollution levels above World Health Organization limits by launching and promoting it on building projections and billboards and via direct mail. The website includes access to free reports of the air quality at every address in London. The reports include a simple rating system along with specific health and financial costs. The initiative also pushes for legal action to mandate disclosure of air pollution ratings within the property industry by connecting citizens with their elected officials. 

The campaign was so effective, COPI changed the law, obligating estate agents to disclose information that COPI’s website gives them. Property portals now include’s rating on every listing, and air pollution has become impossible to ignore.

How Gaming Found Purpose In 2020

Gaming has been steadily on the rise for years but the pandemic was a boon for the industry, catapulting it to record levels of revenue and usage. To understand what entertainment and gaming habits will look like in a post-pandemic world, Activision Blizzard Media conducted research on consumer entertainment changes over the course of 2020. The company announced the findings during a segment in its Cannes Lions Live content series, “The Future of Gaming.”

In “How Gaming Found Increased Purpose in 2020,” Activision Blizzard vice president of global business marketing, measurement and insights, Jonathan Stringfield, discusses the implications for marketers trying to keep up with the shifting behaviors of gamers.

According to the research, conducted by Activision Blizzard in conjunction with MFour Mobile Research and OMG Research, there was a 91 percent increase in digital media consumption, with shopping apps, short form video, streaming and gaming among the top forms of media consumed. Below we break down the key takeaways from Stringfield’s analysis.

Social Connectivity

Given the solitude experienced by many last year, social connectivity was found to be a primary purpose of digital media consumption, according to the research, notes Stringfield. Specifically, of those who were newer or returning to gaming last year, roughly 40 percent indicated social connectivity as one of the primary reasons for engaging with it. Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a perfect example of how consumers found a medium in which to relax and socialize with others in a virtual world. Innersloth’s online multiplayer game Among Us marks another example of how friends and coworkers interacted in a natural and fun way during lockdowns.

Stringfield reports that although all age groups turned to games as the medium through which they connected with family and friends, it was parents in particular who were some of the “biggest gamers out there.” Given that they were called upon to parent even more—to act as a teacher at times while juggling work from home—gaming played an integral role in how they connected with their children. Gaming also enabled them to achieve a sense of escapism and decompress amid the chaos of the year.

Of the 27 percent of individuals who reported being new to gaming in 2020, over 76 percent stated that they were revisiting, according to the research. Given that the majority of gamers last year weren’t new to gaming, Stringfield is frequently asked the billion-dollar question: will individuals stick with it in a world quickly reopening and returning to normal?

Simply put, video games will be a part of our media ecosystem in the long haul. Roughly 73 percent of individuals surveyed intend on maintaining habits like gaming. This isn’t a conclusive answer, so only time will tell how the current patterns shift and evolve. But as Stringfield notes, given that human behavior tends to change fairly slowly, the research points to the probability that gaming isn’t a “one-and-done” for 2020.

Emotional Need

In addition to the social connectivity that multiplayer and online games afforded consumers, respondents reported feeling emotions such as happiness, calmness and the feeling of being entertained while playing games.

Among the individuals that increased streaming video consumption, that uptake was almost synonymous with video games at  about 76 percent. Stringfield says that this finding highlights a “strategic blind spot” in the industry that video games are as fundamental to individuals’ media ecosystems as other entertainment forms like streaming, which most would consider indispensable today.

Implications For Brands

Activision Blizzard’s research solidified that digital media played the role of “the hero” for individuals throughout 2020. Now brands have an opportunity to capitalize on consumers’ growing relationship with games, namely integrating with these platforms in a way that’s mindful of the need states that users have for engaging with them.

Stringfield says that it’s imperative brands integrating in this space understand why individuals come to these platforms. Doing so will create connections with them that are stronger than the connection otherwise created by advertisements that ignore the game’s context and purpose. Integration should be seamless enough to the core experience so that individuals are not broken away from the platform or miss out on the benefits they derive from them.

To answer the question of whether video games are here to stay, Stringfield affirms that gaming has been on the rise for years, so the numbers witnessed in 2020 were only building on a trend that’s been in the making. And the games won’t just be played by tweens, but by all cohorts — millennials, Gen Z and older generations.