In-Game Ads: the Ever-Shifting Frontier

Posted by Victor Z Glenn • Apr 5, 2024 9:00:00 AM

Evolution in gaming marches on, as in-game ads gain mainstream acceptance. Google AdMob's, official and recent, foray into serving in-game ads marks yet another milestone. While this development signals broader acceptance of the format, it brings mixed feelings for existing competitors in the space. AdMob's expansion into in-game ads, announced via a blog post on March 12, touts immersive ad experiences, featuring traditional digital banners overlaid on in-game objects like street signs or billboards. While the current inventory is limited to mobile games, AdMob's future plans include extending ad placements to both two-dimensional mobile games and three-dimensional titles like "Roblox" or "Call of Duty." However, Google's entry into the in-game ad arena presents what Digiday called “a double-edged sword.” Historically, leading in-game ad companies like Massive found success through acquisition by larger industry bodies like Microsoft or EA. The rise of internal in-game ad departments within gaming giants like Microsoft and Sony in 2022 sparked speculation about a shifting landscape for today's in-game ad firms.

Meanwhile, in a bid to diversify revenue streams, Discord, the popular communication platform, announced plans to introduce paid promotions called "Sponsored Quests" in collaboration with video game developers. These promotions will offer users in-game or in-platform rewards for completing various challenges while playing with friends and viewers on Discord. However, initial responses to the announcement have been mixed. Some industry observers, like technology adviser and investor Meghana Dhar, express concerns about the potential impact of this new advertising model on Discord's user base. Dhar suggests that the platform's swift pivot from an ad-free service to one incorporating paid promotions could erode trust among users, potentially driving them to seek alternative solutions. As Discord navigates this transition, maintaining brand safety and user trust will be critical for its long-term success in the evolving digital advertising landscape.

Amidst all these changes for in-game experiences, the risks for brand safety concerns rise in the form of fraudulent accounts and activities.  Ensuring brand safety in gaming is paramount, as these consumers sit at the heart of brand desirability in terms of age and engagement. As we consider efforts to create a safer space for consumers and facilitate online transactions, there's a potential downside associated with the surging use of emerging AI tools. Despite its effectiveness in identifying fraudulent behavior, AI may also inadvertently suspend genuine advertisers and ads, raising concerns about false positives. Google in fact had to deal with these concerns throughout 2022 and 2023. In response to the rising tide of scams and fraud Google deployed 31 updates to its Ads and Publisher policies in 2023 following the company’s Ads Safety Report. While specific details about future updates for 2024 remain undisclosed, Google reaffirms its commitment to investing in policy, detection, and enforcement mechanisms to combat emerging brand safety threats.  This expansion into the in-game universe should remind all players in the space of their responsibility and commitment to consumer safety.

Topics: Brand Safety, Technology, Brand Suitability, content, tools, Google, gaming, content creators, digital advertising, esports, AI, mobile gaming, advergames, cyber security, discord