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Verification has opened the floodgates to in-play advertising
April 30, 2021
The potential of gaming to connect brands with massive, engaged audiences has been extolled relentlessly in recent years. Those of us working at the intersection of gaming and advertising have rolled our eyes as brand after brand, agency after agency, ad network after ad network, waxed lyrical about this potential while advertising dollars continued to flow towards web and social media, despite gaming holding an equal share in the attention economy.
Part of this frustration came from knowing that it was our job to unlock the massive potential energy of in-game advertising from behind the floodgates, releasing the kinetic energy that finally powers gaming’s emergence as the next key media channel. Ultimately, we haven’t been able to prove beyond doubt that games advertising can be unobtrusive, brand suitable, brand safe; and viewed by millions of real people as they enjoy gaming experiences.
Scaling advertising best practice in digital worlds
As a result, brands haven’t been able to make significant investments in in-game inventory. Until now the best examples of brands engaging gamers have been large, set-piece activations. Think Iron Man, Batman, Aquaman (superheroes may have a diversity problem) in Fortnite, Gillette Venus in Animal Crossing (solving a digital diversity problem), and Moschino x The Sims (just cool). The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the need for brands to be part of these digital worlds, with 90% of Gen Z identifying themselves as gamers and increasingly socialising within Roblox and Rec Room rather than on traditional social media platforms. Amazing, inspiring campaigns will continue to play a huge role in this. But they’re expensive, labour intensive and not scalable.
The In-Play advertising movement is a huge opportunity for brands to play a meaningful part in the metaverse - these digital worlds - programmatically, scalably and crucially without the brand safety faux pas previously associated with in-game advertising. By injecting creative directly within the code of games themselves, it’s possible to provide branded experiences that don’t detract from or even enhance digital environments and the gameplay itself. The Admix platform links premium advertisers with 100% owned inventory across a portfolio of popular games. Crucially, it’s the game developers themselves who choose how and where to place advertising space within their games to ensure the most authentic context possible. We recently published a case study with a studio which ran tests with between 0 and 10 In-Play ads: And the number of In-Play ads had absolutely no impact on user retention.
Addressing legacy concerns using in-play
For many games publishers, Apple’s imminent IDFA changes will mean a sea change in how they market their games because they rely on third party data. In-Play utilises first party and contextual data to ensure the right ads are served to the most appropriate users, whether this is a banner for Gucci or a video for Uber. If performance advertising revenues drop, brand revenues become more important and we are likely to see more interest from publishers in In-Play.
It’s relatively easy to prove that In-Play addresses many of the legacy concerns advertisers have had about interruptivity and brand safety. As such, we’ve seen a steady flow of brands investing in games beyond bespoke activations. But for brands and agencies to be able to make games advertising a core part of their media plans and give it a similar weighting as social, they need cast iron proof that their creative is being meaningfully viewed and digested by players.
Taking gaming from dominant activity to dominant media channel
This is a lot more challenging to prove. As part of our quality assurance, Admix has always carefully measured screen time of ads weighted against their size, for example, but third party verification has always been the gold standard. Until recently the technology didn’t exist to measure In-Play ads - so we worked with IAS (Integral Ad Science) to build the solution - becoming the first In-Play company to be externally verified! Our partnership is consistently showing that Admix’ inventory demonstrates a very high average level of viewability (more on this later!).
This is of course brilliant for Admix as a company, but through our work with IAS we hope to continue standardising the measurement of In-Play and sharing our learnings with the wider industry. The floodgates are open for brands to engage confidently with the most popular activity in the world, but our unshakeable belief is that gaming will become the dominant media channel for the next decade and beyond. The rewards for the entire ecosystem are clear, starting with the user experience of the 2.5 billion gamers worldwide, through the revenue streams of developers, publishers and media agencies; and ultimately the success of new and longstanding brands.
By Samuel Huber, CEO and co-founder of Admix