This isn’t a red-carpet film debut or a charity event, but celebrities are still turning out for it.
When the Israeli mobile-games company Playtika launches a new series of ad campaigns on the day after Christmas, it will do so with some famous names in tow. Jason Alexander will pitch World Series of Poker in a series of commercials, and Sarah Jessica Parker will play a city girl who gets to enjoy the country life thanks to Solitaire Grand Harvest. Ty Pennington, the home-renovation guru, will play up Caesars Slots. And Drew Barrymore will make a second push behind Bingo Blitz.
“We believe these celebrities will help us to reach more audience, “says Nir Korczak, Playtika’s chief marketing officer, in a recent interview, adding: “We still believe that there is a mass-market gap and we need to break the boundaries of this category.”
Gaming ads are typically aimed at, well, gamers. They are young. They don’t typically watch a lot of traditional TV, where the aforementioned celebrties have devised some of their best-known work. And they often tune out traditional marketing messages.
But their older counterparts don’t. And actors like Parker, known for “Sex and the City”; Alexander, a ‘Seinfeld” mainstay; Pennington, famous for his run in “Extreme Makeover”’ and Barrymore, a movie star who now hosts a daytime talk show, make for familiar figures. The contrast with typical gaming ads –which show quick cuts of actual game play – is stark. “We want to expand the category as a whole,”says Korczak. “”And with the help of those guys, we can do it in a more efficent way.”
Gamers may see more of the actors than they expect. In some cases, says Korcazk, the celebs’ avatars are woven into the games they helped to advertise, giving the feel that they are hosts.
As big as the mobile gaming market is, there is more growth to be had. The global mobile gaming market is poised to reach an estimated $339.5 billion by 2030, compared with $108.2 billion in 2022, according to a June report from market-research firm Facts & Factors. A chunk of that growth is expected to be fueled by older consumers gaining more comfort with tablets and smartphones. At the same time, there have been studies published over the past year that suggest revenue from mobile gaming declined in 2022, due in part to inflation. When eggs and gas cost more, there is less money available for less essential services.
The spokespeople in question are better known for other types of ads., Alexander has held forth for everything ranging from KFC to Tide to Western Union. Pennington has pitched Guaranteed Rate and Cabinets to Go. Barrymore once promoted Garnier Nutrisse and, at a much younger age, McDonald’s. Parker was once featured in a Super Bowl ad for Stella Artois and helped sing the Gap’s praises in a musical spot.
Playtika has reason to launch various celebrity-focused campaigns. A previous attempt to gain traction for Bingo Blitz with Barrymore fared well, says Korczak. Playtika can track if a famous persona drove downloads, or if one of the spokespeople is woven into the game, how their presence drives behavior. The company has also tapped actor Laurence Fishburne for a stint advertising World Series of Poker.
Playtika is putting the actors through their paces. Alexander, who once took part in a Super Bowl commercial for Rold Gold pretzels that made it seem as if he and the dog from the TV series “Fraisier” had parachuted into a football stadium in Florida in real time, says the company appears to have big plans for each game campaign. “It was a very ambitious shooting schedule. We were up in Vancouver. We did ten spots plus some peripherals in a single shooting day,” he says in an interview.
Alexander didn’t need a primer on how to play the company’s poker offering. “I’ve played this game. It was not a stranger to me when they called.” The actor says his mission is to snare consumer attention and get people thinking about the product. “Generally, people tend to yell ‘fast forward’ or to jump over an ad as quickly as they can,” he says, “If you can give them a giggle or move them, they will hang around.”