Is there an industry standard for measuring in-game ads?
We’re evolving towards that. The IAB is working on some prototype definitions, so yeah, we’re getting there. We tend to sell impressions when applicable … using the similar ten-second impression similar to what Massive has deployed in the marketplace.
Whilst at this point in right time now, there is no industry-wide standard, but by next week there will be.
Yeah, I guess that we have a standard. We have standards in terms of the ad units that are placed in the games through working with our publisher partners. We also have standards as far as metrics are concerned. We count only ten second impressions, and that’s what we’re measured by. Ten second billboard video: that’s the unit of measurement within the network.
How useful do you think in-game metrics are, since games can be played both on and off-line on a whole bunch of different platforms?
Right now, other than Massive, no one is serving ads on the console. I can’t speak for IGA or Massive, but in our particular case, our [in-game] client is a smart client. If the user is off-line, whenever [they go] online, we look at the adservers and see if there’s a creative that’s been approved—it may be up to a month before that ad is supposed to run. If there’s bandwidth available in a way that doesn’t interrupt the game, we’ll download that and place in the creative ahead of time. If the user is later off-line, we can serve an ad and then when they next connect we’re able to report on the ad impressions.
Those metrics are incredibly important, because a media buyer needs to be able to evaluate in-game advertising effectiveness alongside other mediums that he’s spending in. It’s a part of what they need to be able to do their jobs properly and see where in-game advertising fits into their media matrix and their brand matrix.
There’s also the ongoing auditing. We have to provide third-party auditing of our metrics. Otherwise, our software that’s recording what the player’s doing inside the game could be spewing out any numbers at all possible. And if there’s no one there checking it, we could all be millionaires and sit on the beach in Bermuda for the rest of our lives.
Most other advertising mediums you can prove the ad left the server in the event of the internet. You can prove the TV spot was delivered. But with no other mediums can you actually prove an ad was seen. With in-game advertising, you can. So when you’re steering your character through Times Square in a game, and you turn your character to look at a billboard and you’ve seen it, we record that. It’s a bit like the Holy Grail from an advertising perspective.
If they’re using a console and we’re not able to deliver advertising into it, then we can’t measure it, so it becomes a moot point. We only measure what we deliver. You only pay for what’s delivered.
The only difference between the internet and in-game advertising is that the internet charges you when the ad leaves the ad server. On a network such as ours, an advertiser only gets charged after we’ve effectively delivered 10 seconds of impressions, or 10 seconds of cumulative impressions. We can only obviously count the impressions we deliver.
What sort of games are more easily combined with advertising? What do you do for games that aren’t sports or set in a present-day location? What about fantasy, sci fi games, or even puzzle, arcade, and casual titles?
It depends obviously on the style of game. In the casual game space, we have a deal with Trymedia, which is part of Macrovision, one of the major aggregators there, and the paradigm there is around-game advertising.
[For] fantasy realms, we’re not here to disrupt the gaming experience, so the paradigms that make sense there are more ones of sponsored levels and ways where brands … may not themselves be inside [the] medieval environment. I think that makes much advertising sense.
From the genre perspective, it’s sports titles, which breaks down into baseball, basketball, soccer, football, that kind of thing. First person shooters, or the action-adventure, are also hugely popular. The flying games are hugely popular as well. Community social games are very popular, and in all those genres we can place contextually relevant advertising.
With fantasy games, we can’t. What we then do is place what are called around-the-game ads. What you would never see us doing is placing an ad on the side of a castle wall in a fantasy game. It just wouldn’t happen. But what you can do is on the loading screen of the game or on the installation screens, or as different maps of the game are loading you can place ads around the game.
That’s really important. Everything that we do, as far as advertising is concerned, has to be contextual to the game. The rule of thumb is very straight forward: if you wouldn’t expect to see advertising within that environment, let’s say it’s a pre-19th century environment, or a pre-20th century, you’re not going to see advertising. You won’t see advertising in Middle Earth. You’re not going to see advertising in Sherwood Forrest.
Will you see advertising in fantasy games? At the end of the day, it’s up to the developer. This is their creative vision. If they feel that their fantasy world needs advertising or should have it, then we’ll assess it with them and we’ll make a judgment together. For futuristic games, absolutely. Look at Blade Runner. Absolutely, there’s going to be advertising in the future worlds just as there is today except more so.