Welcome to the second instalment of the mythbusting series brought to you by INCRMNTAL. In this edition, ANZU dives into the realm of in-game advertising to debunk the prevalent myths and misconceptions surrounding it. As we engage in discussions with our clients and individuals new to the field of advertising, we've noticed several commonly misunderstood aspects. Our mission is to unravel these misconceptions, one by one, and shed light on the truth. If you would like to check out the first piece on incrementality and user-level data you can check it out here.
Over 3 billion gamers exist around the globe — that’s almost 40% of the world’s population. With such groundbreaking statistics, it’s no surprise that advertisers are keen to reach this massive, engaged audience. Many brands from industries as wide-ranged as FMCG, fashion, and finance have already unlocked the power of in-game advertising to embrace new exciting campaigns across all gaming platforms, from mobile and PC to console and the metaverse.
However, many brands are still holding back on jumping into intrinsic in-game advertising, holding onto common misconceptions and mistruths around the ad channel, and missing out on a huge opportunity to spread brand awareness among typically hard-to-reach audiences.
Here, we take a deep dive into some of the common myths around intrinsic in-game advertising, and how advertisers can make the most out of this revolutionary ad medium.
From Anzu’s experience, gamers don’t hate ads — they hate bad ads. The sort of ads that completely interrupt the gameplay experience, or take them away from it altogether with annoying pop-ups or time-outs to view yet another branded video ad between levels.
In-game ads are quickly becoming known as the ‘digital Out-Of-Home’ options within 3D gaming environments. Non-clickable, non-disruptive, and blended into the in-game environment through billboards, posters, or branded objects, intrinsic ads keep the gameplay experience seamless and undisturbed for players.
In fact, these types of intrinsic ads often enhance the realism and immersion of video games, mirroring the OOH advertising that you would expect to see in real life. Put it this way — when was the last time you saw a stadium with no ads around the pitch, or a racetrack with blank banners surrounding it? Where you would find ads in real life, chances are they will also be found as in-game ads within the virtual world of gaming in the very near future.
When researching gamer attitudes towards in-game advertising, Anzu found that 7 in 10 gamers are positive or neutral towards in-game ads. With more and more games implementing this monetization method, gamers are not only becoming more accustomed to in-game ads — they’re expecting them, with 50% of all gamers in the US saying it was important to see their favorite brands in the games they play. It’s clear that these intrinsic in-game ads benefit not only gamers and advertisers, but also game developers, by offering a sustainable, alternative revenue stream while also removing the need to hardcode ‘fake brand’ ads into their games.
While you may typically associate in-game ads as only for mobile titles, nothing could be further from the truth. The global PC gaming market is projected to be worth $46.7B by 2026, with the global console gaming market set to reach a staggering $56.9B in the same year. With the gaming audience increasing year on year, the demand for alternative monetization beyond the traditional models is greater than ever in order for game publishers and developers to keep up with demand. Last year, console giants Microsoft and Sony announced their own in-game advertising initiatives for their Xbox and PlayStation consoles, further establishing in-game ads as a viable monetization channel for game development studios.
Anzu’s intrinsic in-game ad solution is cross-platform, meaning that its AdTech is built not only for mobile, but also PC, console, and the metaverse, and is the first solution to offer programmatic beyond just mobile games. Success stories from PC games using Anzu’s solution range from Amelore’s free-to-play title Slappyball, to AAA racing title Dakar Desert Rally by Saber Interactive, part of the Embracer Group.
And the opportunities for in-game advertising beyond just mobile don’t stop there. More and more studios are shifting to creating cross-platform games — playable across mobile, PC, and console. This has been the case for many popular multiplayer games such as Fortnite and Minecraft, the latter being heralded as one of the most popular games of all time. With this cross-platform mindset across both gaming audiences and development studios, brands now have more opportunities than ever to reach gamers through the games they play, no matter where or when they’re playing them.
Two main concerns arise when people mention brand safety in gaming; one is violence in gaming — which has already been widely discussed by the advertiser community at large — and the other centers around user-generated content.
While user-generated content is typically a major issue with other ad channels like social media, gaming already has much more stringent measures built in from a brand safety standpoint. As well as the usual PEGI ratings for age verification, PC and console gaming offers a controlled environment for ad placement without the risks usually associated with user-generated content.
In fact, brand safety checks that native gaming content goes through are much more stringent than those for web content, Anzu’s CPO Ben Fenster said in a recent panel. “News apps and social apps get their content updated constantly without getting approval. When a news article comes up, it’s not like the App Store will check it. But each time a game has a major update, it must be reviewed and re-approved again — not only for the game itself and whether it’s compatible, but also its content.” He went on to emphasize that verified mobile app stores can be a “great source for making brand safety happen” when it comes to gaming, and premium stores on PC and console were showing similar progress.
When it comes to emerging technologies, advertisers are (rightly) keen to measure an ad’s success within that new environment. With technological advancements and strategic partnerships in the gaming space, in-game advertising is improving its measurability constantly.
Last year, we saw the arrival of the updated In-Game Advertising Guidelines from the IAB and MRC, revealing more defined criteria for in-game ad viewability. At the same time, Anzu launched its first-to-market cross-platform viewability measurement with Oracle Moat and IAS, and was granted its patent for measuring viewability in dynamic 3D environments across gaming platforms with ray-tracking technology. And it’s only just beginning, with measures being taken to implement further guidelines around attention moving further into 2023.
These new tech capabilities mean that it is possible to measure the performance of campaigns in real-time, track ad exposure time, and gain detailed insights with various brand safety tools and brand lift measurement providers. In-game measurements allowing apples-to-apples comparisons with campaigns from other mediums means that advertisers feel more confident in opting for in-game advertising. Big brands from Samsung to Gucci are already embracing in-game advertising and actively measuring success from new in-game campaigns. By establishing further long-term trust and security in in-game ads, advertisers are gravitating towards featuring their ads in video games… and reaping the benefits.
Natalia Vasilyeva, EVP Marketing and Strategy at Anzu.io, the world’s most advanced in-game advertising platform on a mission to make advertising in games better, leads the global marketing team, which stretches from London to Minsk to Tel Aviv. She was employee number six at the company and continues to shape Anzu’s strategy, proposition, and roadmap, having helped transition the company from Start-Up to Scale-Up to its current status as the in-game advertising leader.
As an influencer and industry expert in her own right, Natalia has also played an essential role in establishing in-game advertising as a media channel over the past five years and has developed strong relationships with experts from many of the globe’s leading brands, game companies, and industry bodies.
Before Anzu, Natalia worked as a project and marketing manager for a global AdTech company Glispa, and the world leader of mobile fitness apps, Sport.com. A multilingual speaker and author, she writes extensively about AdTech and in-game advertising and frequently speaks at industry events around the world, educating audiences on the potential of gaming as an advertising medium.