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Life on Twitch: New Look, New Experiences for Advertisers

Gaming has been a major interest in the digital space since before the Internet. Esports, on the other hand, have grown more recently as a televised, live event gaining coverage on parallel with real-world pro golf or tennis tournaments. Sure, the large segments of fans around a major esports team like FaZe Clan connect virtually – but so does a new generation of “real” sports fans. This is why, with the proliferation of 24/7 content and commentary, a local G-League NBA team can attract fans around the global.

As gaming gets more mainstream, its most popular hangouts continue to evolve. Twitch, for instance, is on marketers’ radar as a live video streaming channel, not just for games. Big advertisers want access to Twitch’s Gen Z audience, and so do presidential candidates. (Over the summer, we discussed Bernie Sanders on Twitch with Obama videographer Arun Chaudhary.)

Twitch – acquired by Amazon in 2014 – has taken the next step in its evolution as publisher with new ad experiences for streaming viewers, new ad options for advertisers, and a new creator dashboard. All social media platforms are essentially user-generated content. The advertising capabilities introduced this past year on Pinterest raise the profile of users to creators who are also a little bit like influencers. Top YouTubers used to be able to make some cash, but rarely fulltime. And it’s only getting harder. Creator platforms like Twitch and Pinterest (don’t call them social) are tinkering with ad formats and ad buying processes to make it easier for big and small advertisers to spend more and raise KPIs.

Yes, high performance on some TV and super-premium video and IMAX cinema indicate that there will be an appetite for traditional productions for months or even years to come. But for marketers who see the future in user-generated, conversational content, Twitch’s way forward in branding, advertising and content creation is writing that other, digital-native playbook.

For Twitch, one way to demonstrate their marketing acumen – and to grow an even bigger audience – is through their own brand initiatives.

Twitch launched a rebrand at TwitchCon 2019 that includes old-style street posters, a new retro-gamer typeface and purple brand coloring. The tag keeps real to Twitch’s roots: “You’re already one of us.”

Sarah Iooss, head of sales, Americas, offered DMN some exclusive insights into Twitch’s new brand push and experience overhaul.

“Twitch’s first-ever brand campaign was developed to match the energy of our creators and communities who make up a cohort of vibrant, unique and passionate individuals that come together to co-create their own entertainment,” looss told me. “Core to this campaign is the notion that you don’t just watch Twitch, you are Twitch.”

New ad products and changes announced at TwitchCon, according to Iooss, represent just the beginning of ongoing improvements for streamers, viewers and advertisers.

  • Affiliates earning a revenue share from ads raises revenue for streamers and increases inventory for advertisers.
  • Ads being removed from non-Affiliate and non-Partner channels assures viewers every ad they see supports the streamer they are watching, and assures advertisers their ads are only being shown on channels that meet our benchmarks and requirements.
  • Affiliates and Partners being able to remove pre-roll ads in favor of regular Ad Breaks gives streamers more control, removes a delay for viewers entering a live stream and ensures ads are shown to an already captive audience.
  • Picture-by-Picture viewing, which keeps a stream visible in the corner while an ad plays on any gaming category, ensures viewers don’t miss any action.
  • Volume of ads being normalized with other content speaks for itself.

Iooss points out that an improvement for affiliates and partners, like the option to remove pre-roll, really increases engagement with the audience. This is advertising’s virtuous circle – the more consumer-friendly it is, the better chance it has of engaging its intended audience.

Creators, the heart and soul of Twitch’s content, must also be given the impression that their work is appreciated – especially as Twitch’s prominence soars.

“A key mission at Twitch,” Iooss explained, “is to give creators the means and tools to earn money doing what they love. Streaming requires a lot of time, commitment and talent, so we’re constantly looking for new ways, and improving existing ways, for Twitch creators to get rewarded. Running ads on channels is one such method.”

She added, “Twitch is where audiences have the opportunity to do just that. Content creators and their viewers make shared, interactive entertainment moments together – viewers use chat to interact with the content creator and each other, reacting to what they watch in real-time. This makes the entertainment experience so much more engaging and personal. With help from Twitch, advertisers have already been successful at adapting their brand experiences and messaging to fit a live, interactive shared viewing setting. This way, brands not only get brand messaging across in a format young audiences understand, they also get a level of engagement and value from minutes watched and clicks/chat not available elsewhere.”

At any given time, according to Iooss, 1.3 million watchers are tuning into Twitch. Over 66 percent of people 13 and older play more than an hour of video games per day. The advertisers drawn to the audience represent the entertainment industry, yes, but also consumer packaged goods, automotive and finance. Iooss pointed out that non-gaming content on Twitch (Bernie Sanders, etc.) grew by more than 100 percent in 2018, measured by hours watched.

“There are already established non-gaming communities in art, music, general life streams (IRL), and more,” Iooss said. “Video games on Twitch and how creators and audiences present and consume that content was a proof of concept. Now, Twitch is for anyone who is a passionate fan looking for a community of like-minded people to enjoy media together.”

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