What has it been like to work within the world of online gaming during the past few months? We spoke with Funda Yakin, Director of Media and Market Development at InnoGames, to find out.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I am the Director of Media and Market Development at InnoGames, Germany’s leading developer and publisher of online and mobile games. My job is to have the strategic lead on our Media & TV department, Direct Online Partnerships, such as affiliates, influencers etc. and finally to help grow the company even more with business development. My goal is to scale our business with the highest possible profitability and return on ad spend (ROAS).
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
InnoGames employees have been working from home since mid-March. We made the transition rather early as a precautionary measure, but it soon became necessary and we saw many other companies follow suit.
While we are physically apart, which has changed the social aspect of things, the level of work has not been disrupted. We continue to deliver the same level and quality of work as when we were in the office. Since the transition to remote work, my typical day of course no longer has to account for my commute, which used to be around 30 minutes by car. Instead, I now use this time to prepare myself a nice green tea and sort my schedule for the day. I also fit in a quick workout, if there is enough time. I really appreciate that we can work from home with the same speed and focus, although I miss the social interaction with my team and colleagues, however, my team and I have made it a point to connect virtually to catch up, while the company has implemented virtual events to bring us together outside of a more traditional meeting setting, including wine tastings and cooking events.
I also used to travel frequently to fairs and meetings all around the world. Although I don’t really miss the time spent on an aeroplane, I do miss meeting people and experiencing places in other countries and cultures. Many of these opportunities have either been postponed or moved digitally, so it is still possible to stay connected with our partners everywhere.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
Important gaming events and hardware announcements (GDC, E3, Gamescom, Nintendo Direct, Sony State of Play etc.) successfully moved to remote and digital streams and engaged public and professional audiences online – sometimes even more than the original events.
On the marketing side, I observed that, due to the pandemic lockdowns, many of the travel and retail companies had to cancel their large marketing campaigns, while online, TV and streaming consumption saw a steep increase. This offered online-based sectors like delivery, streaming services and also fellow gaming companies the chance to advertise more and on a variety of online and TV channels for a great value for the money due to the extremely high reach
Programmatic is still a popular topic, now especially when it comes to TV. Brands and companies stand to benefit from more targeted TV marketing, and I am proud to say that we are a true forerunner in this field. It is exciting to see how this very traditional channel gets more into digital and goes hand in hand with streaming consumption.
What changes are you making to help your company connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
I think transparency and communication is the key to make people feel more comfortable in those uncertain times. We implemented a plan with different phases and guidelines. Every Friday, management provides updates on the status and the planned next steps. Additionally, using the regular video conferences to not necessarily only talk about business, but about life and more personal topics, helps us to keep the bond as a team. As an extra service we also offer an experienced helpline for those who feel they would benefit from additional support.
Luckily, our sector was not negatively impacted by the pandemic, which was a big relief that we did not have to worry about economic uncertainty. Everyone could work at 100% and there were more than enough projects we had to focus on. Following our mission statement, we aim to create virtual worlds that bring people together anywhere, anytime. Our games have served as a space where people can step away from the stress of the pandemic and connect with friends and family members no matter where they are in the world.
Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?
There were some big companies that reacted immediately by shifting their production lines to make sanitiser instead of perfumes, or to produce face shields instead of sporting goods. That’s truly impressive.
Looking closer to home, I was honestly most impressed by my own company. One really positive thing InnoGames implemented was a food delivery program to support all employees, especially working parents. Of course, the whole company benefited from this, and we were able to support local businesses, including the chefs from our in-house cafeteria. I think this was one of a kind and left all my friends in awe when I told them where our delicious food comes from.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
I believe that every crisis also brings new chances and opportunities. Take the fact that digitalisation of companies and schools sped up in a tremendously short time. There are new chances for marketers to position their campaigns and brands in this new environment. I would advise them to look for such positive opportunities and take the chances to go digital as soon, and as much as they can. People around the world have now a different sensitivity and perception of their environment. Now is the time to be more creative, emotional, honest and even humorous in advertising because fortune favours the bold.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your company?
We are in a strong position and have even higher ambitions for the future. From a marketing perspective, we want to continue to boost our performance-driven campaigns, explore new channels and platforms and get even more people around the world excited for Forge of Empires, Elvenar and all our other great games.
Currently, there are several new titles in production, and we look forward to sharing them with people everywhere once the time comes.