Pokémon™ GO: Fun, Fleeting—Or The Future of Native Advertising?


Advertising is far from being a newcomer in the world of mobile gaming, but the tremendous success of Nintendo’s® Pokémon™ GO suggests a future beyond banner ads and skippable interruptions. The game sensation sweeping the globe has begun integrating brands into the game itself through a new form of native advertising fittingly titled “Poké Stops.”

Pokemon GO players with the app open on their phones

Pokémon™ GO’s mobile gaming application is simple. An avatar representing a live human is placed onto a map, echoing the movements of the live player through location tracking as they move about in search of roaming Pokémon™ to encounter and capture via augmented reality. Poké Stops, virtual locations players are able to visit every five minutes to obtain in-game items, are spread across the game map and correspond to local monuments, public buildings, and other places of interest in the real world. Upon the game’s release, many local businesses, museums, libraries, and other brick-and-mortar locations unexpectedly found themselves classified as or placed near Poké Stops. Many seized the opportunity to advertise their new Pokémon™ GO-related status on social media and physical store displays.

While being incorporated into such a wildly popular game’s procedurally placed features is purely a stroke of luck for many unwitting businesses, larger scale businesses such as McDonald’s and Starbucks are now considering attracting Pokémon™ GO-playing customers through customized Gyms and Poké Stops. This unique, hyper-local advertising would create a steady stream of engagement with players and the sponsored location.

A Pokestop in Pokemon GO

The possibility of sponsored Poké Stops was pure speculation until July 14th—less than a week after the release of the game—when code was discovered in the Android and iOS versions of the app that suggested that sponsored Gyms and Poké Stops would soon be appearing at McDonald’s locations in Asia. Gizmodo has since confirmed that this suspected sponsorship is indeed moving forward, crediting a “well-placed source.” With the Pokémon™ GO app already installed on over 5% of U.S. Android devices and 21 million daily active users worldwide, the app will begin generating advertising revenue very soon.

Ingress, a previously released mobile gaming application created by Pokémon™ GO developer, Niantic, also featured location tracking and augmented reality interface. Ingress partnered with the Japanese convenience store chain, Lawson, earlier this year to transform every Lawson location in Japan into part of the game.

With the level of success and media coverage already achieved by Pokémon™ GO, it should come as no surprise that brands are eager to capitalize on the hype. Pokémon™ GO is a door-opener for a new type of native advertising that brings users into a physical location in a way that is 100% viewable and trackable. What remains to be seen is which brands will be first in the U.S. to capitalize on Pokémon™ GO’s breakaway success.