Jude Ower

Even if things aren’t going our way, we’ve made great progress

Jude Ower

Published: 12/11/2020

The gaming industry is vast: bigger than the music and film industries combined, more popular than Instagram and Twitter. However, it garners none of the same attention. Jude Ower spotted the opportunity to harness the gaming community to bring about change.

The problem, says Jude, has been a reputational one. Too often big brands assume that sofa-surfing gamers can’t be motivated into action. This reputation is misplaced: all sorts of people are gamers: there are 2.5 billion of them so they come from every walk of life. Plus, engagement rates are high and evidence suggests they be highly motivated: this was seen as early as 2010 when Zynga ran a campaign to raise funds for the Haiti earthquake victims. It gathered over $1 million in just five days.

It was the response to the earthquake that truly persuaded Jude Ower of the power of the gaming community to bring about change. She had spent a decade in the gaming sector, building games for education and training. She had already seen how games could have another purpose, but in 2011 she decided to launch Playmob, her ‘gaming for good’ company.

I was also interested in Jane McGonigal’s theory, quoted in her book Reality is Broken, that if we could get to 21 billion hours of game play, we could start to solve some of the world’s major issues – climate change, obesity, poverty. We are at 16 billion today, so we are close to the tipping point.
Jude Ower

Jude started Playmob by running in-game fundraisers, which raised millions of dollars for global causes. These are little alerts that pop up in the middle of a game. On the one hand, they are handy because people are already playing the game; on the other, take-up tends to be limited, at around 2%. She knew that to take the business to the next level she would need something new.

Her vision was for an ethical media platform, working with global brands to build playable ads and then distributing them through advertising slots in mobile games. These would be educational, teaching players about global issues and encouraging them to take action. This is where the business is today and it is building real traction with large international organisations.

Jude says: “In 2016/17, we started the Oceans campaign. These were playable adverts that helped people learn how to take action. We had a really high engagement rate – up to 50% played for longer than 30 seconds. Playmob works with big brands such as Unilever and Pepsi, educating players on what the brand is trying to do.
Jude Ower

One of the group's most recent projects has been to work with the UN on a climate change initiative, designed to educate people about its sustainable development goals, which go across oceans, plastics, climate change to areas such as education. It has also worked with soap brand Dove on a self-esteem campaign.

Jude admits that getting people to understand a brand new concept hasn’t always been easy, but they have had champions along the way who have ‘fallen in love'.’ with what they’re doing.

Today the group has not only games designers, but data scientists and behavioural psychologists to help increase the power and impact of their messages. Jude believes they have built a powerful platform. “We have data on what people care about – not just what they buy, but about their values. We can start to understand what people are about – is it climate change? Or plastic pollution? That builds an emotional connection, which in turn can help build a long-term relationship with a brand.”

However, there are still plenty of highs and lows. Her way of dealing with it is always to look at how far they’ve come. "This is the company we would have dreamt of having this time last year. Even if things aren’t going our way, we’ve made great progress.”