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An introduction to advertising on Reddit

EVP and president for global advertising Harold Klaje tells the Academy how gaming brands and developers can best use the platform to market their title

Knowing how to market a game is not an innate skill for a lot of developers.

Small teams in particular, or those working on a project for the first time, might choose to focus on making the title more than promoting it.

It doesn't help that the number of tools at the disposal of game developers has grown exponentially in the last decade, making it difficult to know where to start, which platforms to target, and how.

Social media has become essential when going to market, whether as community tools to gather fans, or as advertising platforms.

It's a topic the Academy covered in the past. Earlier this year, Phoenix Labs' RuthAnne Berry talked about using social media to meet your game's goals, and in a GDC talk last year Chris Zukowski gave tips for indie developers who hate marketing, which was heavily focused on social networks.

Gaming is Reddit's largest category, with over 200 communities gathering three billion views each month

Both highlighted the importance of identifying the social media platform that most fits your needs depending on which step you are at in your development journey. One such platform is Reddit. Once only seen as a place for entertainment and community discussions, the site that dubs itself the "front page of the Internet" is now a prominent advertising platform.

While most developers might know how to make the most of the discussion board from a community point of view, many might still wonder how to make the most of it from a commercial perspective.

"While our platform may now be more than 15 years old, our ads business has really accelerated in the last five years," Reddit's EVP and president for global advertising Harold Klaje tells the Academy.

So how do you approach advertising on Reddit, and how do you make the most of its opportunities?

Targeting is key

Reddit is all about connecting with the right community. It's a vast platform -- the 20th most-visited website in the world -- so you'll need to identify which part of it is relevant to your advertising needs.

"On Reddit, more than 52 million daily active users are connected by interests and communities, rather than demographics, and this makes for an environment of highly engaged, authentic and passionate communities that can't be found anywhere else online," Klaje says. "15% of Reddit users are not on Facebook, 38% are not on Instagram and 37% are not on Twitter in the UK.

"It's also important to recognise that Reddit users have lots of different interests and the value this can bring in terms of targeting. I'm Harold and I'm interested in skiing and mountain biking, but I'm also interested in cooking, so it would be remiss to only target my sporting interests. For our clients, we highly recommend targeting beyond the specific interest groups -- so, for example, in addition to our gaming communities, targeting those focussed on entertainment and technology. Even family and relationships is a great way to reach new unique users."

"It's important to recognise that Reddit users have lots of different interests -- we highly recommend targeting beyond the specific interest groups"

Out of all the interests-based boards on the platform, gaming is Reddit's largest category, Klaje says, with over 200 communities gathering three billion views each month. Having access to such a large audience means Reddit can provide valuable insights for developers.

For instance, 73% of Reddit gamers come to the platform to find out about new games, 53% look for posts to decide whether or not they'll play a new game, and 95% of subscribers to a game's community purchase the game. This highlights the platform's potential to connect with users who might be interested in what you have to offer because they are already engaging with similar content or interests.

"Our work with Zynga is a great recent example," Klaje continues. "They leveraged Reddit to drive downloads of their CSR2 racing game launch by targeting not just gamers, but racing enthusiasts. With continuous testing of interest group targeting and ad format variations [they achieved] high customer lifetime value. Ultimately, Reddit successfully drove 1.5x higher LTVs compared with other emerging social channels."

Klaje says retention rates were also "16% better than other channels and organic installs" but didn't provide more details -- other factors might need to be taken into account as well, for instance, when you use the platform.

When to use Reddit

As highlighted by Chris Zukowski in his GDC talk, specific social media platforms might make more sense at different phases of your journey. It's linked to the famous "marketing funnel," which has roughly four steps: awareness, interest, desire, and action.

Each social platform out there caters to a different step in that process, and Reddit particularly shines at the beginning of that journey, to bring awareness -- and hopefully interest -- about the project to a large number of people.

"The consideration or research phase of a purchase journey is where Reddit really stands out"

Your job will then be to move those interested from the awareness step all the way to the purchase action.

"The consideration or research phase of a purchase journey is where Reddit really stands out," Klaje says. "The number one reason people come to Reddit is to be informed, via in-depth conversations from those who care most about a topic. So it's no surprise that online communities have become a really valued place for people to research, discover and recommend products."

Phoenix Labs' RuthAnne Berry mentioned that Reddit -- much like Discord -- can also be successfully used as a retention tool, as it's a place for your community to hang out and discuss the game post-purchase.

Finding the right option

As an advertising platform, Reddit offers various tools, including its flagship ad unit, native promoted posts. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right format for you -- again, you need to identify your specific needs and find a strategy that fits those requirements.

"For those looking for mass awareness and efficiency, category -- like our gaming category -- takeovers are always a great place to start, especially when run alongside promoted posts or video which can be great drivers of awareness for pre-orders of new titles about to launch, for example," Klaje advises. "We have conversion-focused solutions and mobile app install formats which are also great for driving pre-orders and mobile downloads.

Reddit's Harold Klaje

"We measure campaign success in all of the usual ways -- we look at various engagement metrics, reach and awareness of Reddit ads, click-through rate, conversation rate and LTV, and app installs for things like online gaming."

To know what works and what doesn't on Reddit, relying on your community is also an efficient tool.

"Online communities are a valuable source of real-time feedback and often become unofficial market research groups as brands trial and pivot a campaign approach based on the response from the community," Klaje says.

"The Zynga example I mentioned earlier is one of a brand working with an evolving strategy that played around with different interest group targeting and ad formats to ultimately strike the right balance. But more than just campaign testing, given our communities are so passionate and informed on a given subject, brands who are up for turning the comments on for their ads have the opportunity to directly engage with these users and get a true, honest understanding of feedback and sentiment."

Lead with authenticity

Reddit is all about user-generated content, so making an ad feel like it belongs in an environment where people can downvote and rally against things they don't like can be a challenge.

"The world of UGC is unpredictable and I understand that brands have different levels of comfort"

"The world of UGC is unpredictable and I understand that brands have different levels of comfort when it comes to the content their ads appear adjacent to," Klaje says. "We have tried and tested solutions for this -- from our hand-curated Allow List to our tiered inventory offering -- which is ultimately about giving maximum choice, control and confidence to every Reddit advertiser."

He adds that he's had some clients in the past pause campaigns due to broader societal and current affairs issues and their desire to be sensitive during those moments. Like with any platform, make sure your advertising strategy is fuelled by empathy and truthfulness.

"There is no 'right' way to advertise on Reddit, but we encourage our clients, regardless of industry or size, to lead with authenticity and transparency. Shouting blanket messaging is not going to cut through the same way as understanding a community, listening and adding value to a conversation in a relevant way, and sticking around for the back and forth. We have teams dedicated to finding homes for brands on Reddit, so the best way to win is to give us a call."

When asked for a final piece of advice for those wishing to use Reddit as an advertising platform, Klaje says that the best way to figure out if it's for you is to "dive in and explore the platform."

"Check out our communities and participate in the ones most relevant to you as an individual. As with anything, you'll get the most from Reddit if you take the time to explore and understand it. When my family and friends ask me similar questions, I like to throw it back to them and ask for their top three hobbies or interests, and then give them three communities dedicated to those things that I'll know they'll love.

"That's the thing about Reddit -- no matter the subject, there's a passionate community focussed on it."

Marie Dealessandri avatar
Marie Dealessandri: Marie joined in 2019 to head its Academy section. A journalist since 2012, she started in games in 2016. She can be found (rarely) tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate and the Dead Cells soundtrack. GI resident Moomins expert.
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