Gaming ads feature Bollywood A-listers, sports personalities, rap numbers, and viral content, yet big ad agencies are notably absent. Despite going all out on advertisements, gaming companies are bypassing the traditional ad pitch process. Instead, they are going for project-based collaborations with boutique creative agencies.
This shift allows for specialized and targeted approaches, leveraging the creativity of smaller agencies to cater specifically to the preferences of Gen Z gamers. Companies like Krafton, Dream11, WinZo, Loco and many others in the gaming and esports space are turning to boutique agencies for all their creative needs.
Krafton and WinZo have all worked with a Mumbai based agency The Mad Virus. According to Paavan Nanda, co-founder, WinZo, the fact that the team at The Mad Virus possess a deep understanding of the younger audience and current gaming trends, aligned perfectly with the target audience of their ad campaigns.
“As a result, we have successfully created unique and memorable concepts that seamlessly blend humor and relatable storytelling,” Nanda said.
Firasat Durrani, co-founder and vice president - operations at Loco elaborates on the pluses of working with boutique agencies. “Smaller agencies operate with efficient organizational structures, allowing for quick decision-making and agile creative processes. This inherent flexibility enables swift iterations and adaptations, ensuring campaigns remain relevant and responsive in the ever-evolving gaming landscape,” he said.
“Clients can have more direct involvement in the creative process, providing feedback and contributing ideas, resulting in a more collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship,” Durrani added.
Nitin Menon, director at Retro Films said gaming clients give them the freedom to explore beyond traditional structures, injecting fun and humor into the content. “It is exactly what we did with Krafton’s Road to Valor Empires campaign. It was refreshing to see them open to unconventional approaches,” he said.
According to brands working with these boutique creative and ad agencies, they offer distinct advantages, including quick turn-around time, focus on niche verticals, tailored services and of course minimal processes.
But that holds true for every brand looking to work with smaller agencies.
What makes it even more lucrative for gaming clients though?
“The gaming industry is known for its rapid adaptation to emerging trends, resulting in a shorter shelf life for creative assets. Therefore, it is crucial to continually reinvent these assets. Maintaining a low cost for ad campaigns is of utmost importance as it enables marketers to explore and test a greater number of concepts in the target market, effectively delivering our value proposition,” said Nanda.
According to Nanda they place a strong emphasis on unit economics, making cost efficiency a key aspect of our partnerships with creative agencies. Durrani agrees with Nanda.
“This cost advantage enables us to stretch our budget further and allocate more resources towards creative execution, media placement, and campaign amplification,” he said. Gaming companies have emerged as high spenders with higher ad volumes than ever before. Even in the recently concluded Indian Premier League season, gaming category was the top spender on TV with more than 20 percent ad volumes. As per sources, the gaming companies are ready to spend anywhere between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 1 crore for a campaign and more often than not boutique agencies work on at least 30 percent less campaign costs as compared to the larger agencies. Raman Bhalla, partner at The Mad Virus said when it comes to boutique agencies versus larger ones, the difference primarily lies in fresh ideas and flexibility.
While the boutique agencies offer economical solutions, there is no compromise in quality.
Raman explains why. “Larger agencies often outsourced their work to boutique agencies so clearly there is no difference in the quality of output. With fewer stakeholders involved, boutique agencies offer additional advantages of streamline the process, making it more efficient for new age brands in emerging sectors like gaming,” he said.
Thanks to the cost effectiveness, the gaming companies are also increasingly employing multiple agencies for a single project. For example, Krafton collaborated with Mad Virus, BTDT Media, and Retro Films for Road to Valor Empires. So did many other companies for maximum returns in terms of reach and recall.
Jaya Chahar, founder and chief executive officer at TFG said a lot of things also depend on the goals you want to achieve.
“For achieving larger goals in a shorter time span, you may want to work with two agencies together. One creative and one for all digital/performance needs,” she said.
“Recently we did two campaigns - Swag wala Six during launch of TFG and Tukka nahi chakka maaro "during IPL; both were made by an agency based out of Pune. We were very happy with the creative approach taken and how they had understood the USP of the app,” Chahar added.
Interestingly, many companies opt to keep their collaboration with boutique agencies under wraps to prevent their strategies from being replicated. Given the competitive landscape of the gaming industry, these agencies often work discreetly, avoiding any public buzz or social media announcements. Their success is celebrated behind closed doors, while their client roster boasts renowned national and international brands in the gaming space.