Why companies are developing new tools and metrics to measure gaming advertising
As gaming advertising takes center stage, companies in the industry are developing new measurement tools and metrics to increase brand confidence in their efforts.
The brand’s interest in the space has grown steadily over the past year, generating a buzz of activity at industry events such as IAB PlayFronts and the company’s own Gaming Advertising Forum. Digiday. Recently, Microsoft and Sony announced plans to develop in-game ads for Xbox and PlayStation, their respective gaming platforms.
Despite this influx of activity, many marketers still think it’s too difficult – or at least not worth it – to measure the performance of game ads, especially those of intrinsic game variety. “It’s understandable that most big advertisers are a little hesitant to play in this space,” said Mike Sepso, CEO of gaming and esports infrastructure company Vindex. “They were told they didn’t understand it, they were overwhelmed, they didn’t understand it, but they hadn’t been given any tools to understand it better.”
While it can be difficult to navigate the current landscape of advertising measurement for games, improvements are on the way. In February, the Interactive Advertising Bureau convened a working group of industry players to develop new standards for measuring the viewability of in-game ads and help brands feel more comfortable in space. The new standards are already in the drafting phase and will likely be finalized for public use and MRC certification in June.
But brands want to ramp up their gaming ad business now, not months from now. In response, companies in the industry have already developed new tools and best practices for measuring game advertising. “We believe measurement is a critical part of in-game activation to ensure that every dollar helps drive equity or sales,” said Rob Master, Vice President of Media and Marketing for Americas. North at Unilever. “We recognize that in-space measurement is a work in progress, but as the game continues to evolve, we need to see the implementation of rigorous third-party measurement.”
In March, in-game advertising company Anzu announced a collaboration with Oracle Moat to provide in-game ad viewability measurement in its inventory, describing it as “first to market”. To measure the viewability of its in-game advertisements, which often take the form of billboards or billboards in game environments, Anzu uses the ray tracing features built into games, sending waves of rays from the point of player view to determine how long ads stay visible, percentage of ads visible, and other important metrics. “Almost every game has a physics library, and that physics library includes ray tracing,” said Ben Fenster, product manager of Anzu.
The announcement turned heads when Anzu CEO Itamar Benedy told The Drum that the company’s measurement offerings follow “existing IAB and MRC standards” as the current standards were written in 2009 and explicitly obsolete in a memo issued by the MRC last year. Fenster defended that claim by pointing out that Anzu has been heavily involved with the IAB task force from the start, meaning its current measurement is based on upcoming standards, not current standards. “The differences [between the upcoming IAB standards and Anzu’s standards] almost don’t exist,” Fenster said. “In reality, what we’re doing now is even tougher, and when the new standards come out, they’ll actually be a little more linear in specific places.”
Since it’s impossible for viewability measurement to be MRC-certified before the new standards are released, some companies are focusing their energies on developing new metrics to build brand trust in their in-game ads. In-game advertising company Frameplay has deployed a proprietary metric it calls “Time-in-View”, which measures how long an ad impression is viewable during gameplay. Through independent studies with tracking companies eyepiece Lumen Research and Eye Square, Frameplay found that its Time-in-View metric correlated well with gamer interest and attention. Frameplay’s measurement also leverages built-in game physics to glean its viewability data.
“The interaction between these game mechanics and our SDK [software development kit] allows us to uniquely understand the position of ad placement at any time while the game is actively being played,” said Cary Tilds, Director of Strategy and Operations, Frameplay. “Because people move in a game, placement moves, and so you need to have the interaction between the SDK and that ad placement in order to understand the actual position of the ad.”
Frameplay is also involved in the IAB and MRC’s efforts to develop new viewability standards for in-game ads, which it hopes to support, not supplant, with the Time-in-View metric. “We contribute to this process; we are still very active,” Tilds said. “You’ll have to ask them whether or not they’re going to push the boundaries of the time calculation – but you can’t have the time calculation unless you actually do the visibility part.”
The IAB isn’t just focused on measurement in in-game advertising. Although PlayFronts has been dominated by conversations about the in-game space, other significant forms of gaming advertising would also benefit from revamped measurement practices – particularly esports advertising, which was expected to exceed $1 billion this year, according to a 2020 study by marketing intelligence company WARC.
To address this need, Vindex is collaborating with the IAB to launch the Vindex Intelligence Platform (VIP), which leverages the esports infrastructure company’s access to major esports ecosystems and capabilities to collecting data to accurately determine the value and performance of advertisements throughout gaming and esports. Industries. That said, the platform, which Sepso says will be available to advertisers and publishers as a subscription service, focuses on the in-game entertainment product, not in-game advertisements. But Sepso hopes that by increasing the transparency of gaming advertising performance measurement, VIP will keep advertisers coming back as the role of gaming advertising continues to evolve.
“If I’m a studio head, why should I care about esports? Or why do I care how many people are streaming my game?” Sepso said. Pretty sure we can show you that all of these things correlate with player engagement, and therefore revenue. And if you do it the right way, your players are going to be really excited about it – it’s all part of the gaming experience.”