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‘Brands now better understand how to tap into the behaviors and needs of gamers,’ says Malcolm Poynton at D&AD 2024

LONDON, UK — Before the 2024 D&AD Awards came to a close on May 22, Angel Guerrero, Founder, Owner, and Editor-in-Chief of adobo Magazine, spoke with Malcolm Poynton about his role and insights as Jury President of this year’s Gaming and Virtual Worlds category. As Global Chief Creative Officer and President Creative of Cheil Worldwide, Malcolm has led the network to become one of the world’s most recognized creative agencies. His deep understanding of how people engage with brands digitally has been honed over the years at Sapient and now at Cheil, where mobile, AI, and social media are integral to the agency’s DNA.

“We are completely ambidextrous in that sense. We have the most viewed film ever on YouTube for Samsung. Film is a big part of our repertoire, but it’s about how you connect and engage with people today, especially when they’re all on mobile. That’s a crucial part of our industry, and I focus on it carefully,” Malcolm said.

Providers like Orange in France pioneered this space in the early stages of mobile penetration. Today, mobile games generate more than half the revenue in the gaming industry, with many interactive elements stemming from mobile platforms.

D&AD x adobo magazine 2024 HERO Jury Insights Malcolm Poynton insert 1

Creativity, craft, and impact were key criteria in judging the entries. Malcolm observed a significant improvement in the quality and creativity of the submissions compared to previous years. “When we reflect, a lot of game publishers used to adopt the movie approach — trailers or out-of-home campaigns with the title as the key visual. This year, we saw fewer of those. Brands now better understand how to tap into the behaviors and needs of gamers, rather than just hacking their way into a game or merely seeking visibility,” he explained. Disruption is generally unwelcome in gaming because gamers seek entertainment, not interruptions.

Trend toward participation in gaming

“We saw a shift this year towards stronger work that built on the theme of participation,” Malcolm noted. This change reflects a move from push notifications to immersive experiences, with game advertising focusing more on engagement than visuals. Publishers and brands are now prioritizing creative engagement through in-game events and personalized experiences.

“We see brands tapping into live streamers, which is a smart move, showing a deeper understanding of gaming behavior and needs,” he added, citing The “Doritos Silent” campaign, which catered to live streamers by canceling out crunch noises. Quick-service restaurants, NGOs, and even financial institutions are leading the way in engaging gaming audiences. For instance, an Argentinian bank, BMO, launched a live stream as a financial education campaign and in-game bank. Its “Nxt Nxt Lvl” campaign won a Wood Pencil in the Use of Live Stream category. “A bank in this space is a smart move. We’ve seen banks try to enter this space before but without truly engaging the audience. This campaign addressed the need for engagement around in-game currencies and real-life financial education.”

Cultural representation and diversity in gaming

Malcolm emphasized the importance of cultural representation and diversity in both juries and creative work. Brands and NGOs are addressing gender representation in gaming, using avatars to tackle gender-specific issues like bullying. “Representation for women needs to be genuine. Some attempts, though well-intended, might miss the mark. It’s not just about PR; it’s about making a real change,” he said. He noted that male jurors might view these attempts positively, but they must resonate genuinely with women.

AI in gaming

AI is another trend shaping the gaming industry, with advances in realistic visuals and player emotions. “AI will impact real life, with game actions having consequences outside the gaming world. We’re on the cusp of change. What used to feel pseudo-realistic is now much more realistic. The progress in AI, neural chips, and processing advances is unprecedented, and the technology continues to improve globally,” Malcolm remarked.

Malcolm’s Picks from D&AD 2024 Gaming & Virtual Worlds Category Winners

Doritos Silent

Doritos tortilla chips are a favorite among gamers, fueling long gaming sessions. However, the crunching sound can be annoying and distracting during social gaming. Doritos Silent, the world’s first AI-augmented snack, solved this by canceling out crunch noises in real-time through bespoke software.

“Starr Park CCTV

For Brawl Stars’ 5th anniversary, Supercell launched an interactive scavenger hunt allowing players to explore the game’s backstory via a CCTV Security Room simulation. This immersive experience featured live footage from 54 cameras and 30,000 virtual park patrons, boosting community engagement and player numbers.

Nxt Nxt Lvl

BMO enhanced its NXT LVL Twitch platform, blending entertainment with financial education. This initiative allowed gamers to interact with financial services in a new, engaging way.

“The Outcats

For Black Friday, “The Battle Cats” embraced its weirdness with “The Outcats,” a group of rejected characters seeking revenge. Players voted for their favorite Outcat in exchange for in-game currency, breaking promotional records.

On judging the D&AD Black Pencil

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“The energy in the room was incredible this year,” Malcolm shared. “The discussions were passionate, and the scrutiny from such a diverse range of jurors was immense. To win a Black Pencil, everything must come together perfectly — the idea, execution, and results. True Black Pencils are ideas that move people and businesses and that inspire the jury.”

Malcolm’s philosophy centers on redefining creativity to move consumers and help brands make today better than yesterday.

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