Gaming’s Hidden Power: Mobilizing for Social Change

With over 3.2 billion players worldwide, a projected global revenue of $282.30 billion, and hundreds of new titles released each month, gaming is now considered among the most powerful and engaging media on the planet. With a diverse audience spanning all ages, genders, cultures, and backgrounds, the gaming industry touches billions of lives every day. 

However, while gaming is often seen primarily as a source of entertainment, its ability to reach and engage so many people makes it a powerful vehicle for social good. This potential is currently underutilized, with only a handful of charities and social good organizations leveraging gaming to make meaningful connections with players.

The IAB’s Gaming Advertising State of the Nation report found that the top five barriers to increasing investment in-game advertising were: 
- Brand safety (47%);
- Measuring campaign success (36%);
- Brand suitability (36%);
- Evidence of effectiveness for brand and/or ROI (34%);
- How it can work in combination with other media (32%). 

At Anzu, we continue to educate the market on how intrinsic in-game advertising addresses all of these areas. As a result, we have started seeing a number of social good organizations and charities run successful in-game campaigns that resonate with players and communicate their messages in a highly engaging way that elevates the gaming experience.

Becoming Part Of The Global Climate Conversation

A recent example of this came from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which brought its Weather Kids campaign to the gaming space. I had the privilege of discussing this journey at this year’s Cannes Lions, where I joined a panel to explore the creative input, origination, and evolution of this extraordinary campaign.

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The in-game campaign featured images and videos of kids hosting the weather, warning viewers that rising temperatures will continue to bring more of the catastrophic climate change impacts. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, said, “The Weather Kids add a powerful voice to alert us to a future that will certainly materialize if we do not take meaningful climate action today”.

The campaign ran across over 120 popular PC and mobile titles via Anzu’s non-disruptive intrinsic in-game advertising placements, reaching a massive audience and delivering over 96 million impressions. 

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Catching Attention And Moving Gamers With Impactful Messages

In addition to this campaign, and as part of Anzu’s commitment to leveraging gaming as a social awareness platform, we have also worked with other organizations to launch in-game messages for causes, including suicide awareness, drug driving prevention, and autism awareness. These campaigns have helped the organizations reach millions of players in an attention-rich environment. 

According to a Lumen study, Anzu-specific campaigns achieve an average of 2,795 attentive seconds compared to the digital advertising average of 2,291 and a 98% viewability rate versus the digital advertising norm of 78%, making them highly impactful in communicating crucial messages and raising awareness for causes to new generations.

Another campaign that Anzu worked on for the US Department of Health and Human Services, which encouraged vulnerable adults to get vaccinated, saw a 6.9% point uplift in ad recall and a 3.6% point lift in favorability towards the COVID-19 vaccine as reported by Comscore. Intrinsic in-game ads work well for these campaigns because they integrate into the game environment, ensuring the messaging doesn’t disrupt the player experience. By pairing the right visual and the right message, social good organizations can significantly impact a vast number of players with these ads.

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Anzu’s Creative Director, Simon Sworn, who has helped create a number of in-game ads for social good campaigns, said, “When it comes to these types of ads, creativity plays an even more important role, arguably more than on any other digital advertising channel or format. These ads need to captivate attention while blending naturally into the gaming environment — they’re what I call 'non-disruptive, disruptive ads’. By getting this balance right, you can have a tremendous impact on players”.

Why Gaming And Social Good Are Inexplicably Linked

Although social good campaigns may be new to in-game advertising, gaming and social good have long been closely linked, with many players passionate about supporting causes close to their hearts. Notable examples include:
- Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine: A partnership between Epic Games and Xbox raised $144 million
- Children's Hospitals: The annual 24-hour gaming marathon, Extra Life, has generated over $70 million
- Childhood Cancer: St. Jude Play Live, a video game-centric charity, has raised over $40 million
- Global Vaccine Distribution: Gamers Without Borders united top e-sports athletes and raised over $10 million

There are also countless games built to spread awareness, educate the public, and raise funds for charities and social causes. For example, Sea of Solitude explores loneliness and its impact on mental health, and That Dragon, Cancer tells the story of a family coping with a child’s terminal illness. In addition, games like Never Alone and Mulaka explore indigenous cultures, allowing players to experience these communities' rich histories and traditions.

The difference we see with intrinsic in-game advertising is that it allows social good causes and charities, which may not have the resources to pull off huge activations or build their own games, to enter the gaming world. By harnessing the power of intrinsic in-game advertising, they can reach and engage millions of players who are increasingly hard to reach via traditional advertising channels, including younger generations.


The Future Of Driving Social Good Through Games

Our hope is that this technology will keep inspiring action, raising awareness, and driving positive change on a global scale as we remain committed to demonstrating how scalable gaming is in helping to raise social awareness and responsibility. The future of social good is inextricably linked to the gaming world, and as more organizations look to gaming, it will be exciting to see the innovative and impactful ways they use this medium to make a difference.

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Natalia Vasilyeva

Natalia Vasilyeva has been in the AdTech industry since 2013 and is currently EVP of Marketing and Strategy at Anzu. She leads the global marketing and strategy teams and continues to shape Anzu’s strategy, proposition, and roadmap, having helped transition the company from start-up to scale-up to its current status as the in-game advertising leader. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Natalia Vasilyeva