Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

New Digital Age meets Niklas Bakos, CEO of Adverty

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Tell me about Adverty 

Adverty was founded in 2017 and delivers seamless advertising to connect brands and people through its display advertising technology built specifically for gaming. This represents an exciting opportunity because – despite the vast number of engaged, passionate gaming enthusiasts – gaming remains largely untapped as an advertising channel. 

What is your background? 

My background is firmly placed in heading up gaming and adtech businesses over the last 15 years. I have worked in companies such as Glu, Namco Bandai, StartApp and various startups prior to becoming CEO of Adverty in 2017.

What is the vision behind Adverty?

Our vision is to offer the ultimate in non-intrusive, in-game advertising opportunities for brands on all gaming platforms, from mobile gaming to future platforms such as Virtual and Augmented Reality. This is an approach which represents an undiscovered frontier in the media world. 

It’s possible to create your own game, or a level in an existing one, or to present a virtual billboard, or an in-menu call-to-action, for instance. But, fundamentally, it’s important to think about what the overall game experience is designed to offer and then to add to the realism and the enjoyment. 

Why is this relevant today?

A recent study by games market insights company, Newzoo, predicts the gaming market will reach 3bn players by 2023, worth an estimated $200bn. 

Gaming is one of the largest entertainment channels and it grew exponentially this year, especially during lockdown. 

Yet there is an enormous gulf in advertising spend when it comes to social versus gaming, with the latter receiving only a fraction of the investment. This is down to a lack of awareness. People are socialising widely in the gaming space, just as they are on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

What’s more, historically, gamers have been seen as a niche audience. There is a misconception that gaming is just for young boys or men but females enjoy gaming, too. The demographic is much broader than many assume. What’s more, games provide a doorway to hard-to-reach consumers that many are failing to engage with on more traditional media channels. 

What are the key metrics to measure the effectiveness of this approach?

In-game advertising can offer detailed in-view measurement data in addition to brand uplift studies. It’s possible to know, for instance, if an ad has been in view for 45 seconds. With traditional media, on the other hand – in which measurement is sometimes set up based on assumptions – it can be very hard to know who is viewing campaigns. The data allows us to track precisely how many people saw each ad for how long. The same accuracy is not available with standard television or video content.

Who are Adverty’s key clients?

We work with some of the largest game publishers in the world and have delivered advertising campaigns for Subway, Cyberpunk 2077, Warner Music and Activision Call of Duty.

What formats do you offer?

We recently launched an ‘In-Menu’ format to complement our In-Play branding opportunities, making in-game advertising a powerful performance as well as a branding channel. Rather than interrupting sessions, In-Menu ads invite the end user to interact. They have been created to allow the performance-based advertising that marketers have become so accustomed to. 

As a world-first format for advertisers, agencies and game developers, the units are integrated at game design level, and can offer programmatic or direct buys. This combines unobtrusive brand exposure with a potential call-to-action, enabling advertisers to lead audiences to a direct path-to-purchase. The proprietary, patent-pending ad technology is unique in its ability to keep users within the game rather than leading them out and away from where they had intended to be.

What are your thoughts on the state of digital marketing today? 

Contextual sensitivity is critical for in-game ads and this is a big problem with much digital advertising today. It’s important to focus on experiences rather than simply trying to shift products, and to think of your brand, what it stands for, and what it can offer. Interruptive ads spark backlash, wherever they are placed. The aim, as with all advertising, must be to feel natural and to provide a non-obtrusive experience that is entertaining or informative – or both. 

What does the future hold for this format?

We’ve been working closely with the IAB to establish new industry standards for in-game advertising, given our strong belief that programmatic media buying will grow to include more opportunities for the in-app space – in which gaming is by far the largest category. The future of programmatic advertising looks likely to include a mix of both awareness and performance-based approaches, given that the most powerful advertising combinations have long been born from a blend of the two.

Indeed, it’s when differing in-game formats – such as in play and In-Menu – are used together, that advertisers are likely to see the greatest success. New formats will no doubt follow, too, thanks to emerging technologies such as AR and VR, and increasing bandwidth

What is your advice to marketers looking to leverage this format?

In-game advertising requires careful thought and planning, with much depending on creativity, fit, execution and respect for the context and end user. Context is key. To be successful brands must always show genuine understanding of the audience and the game. The better you can contextually match a brand message with a gaming experience, the better the outcome for both the end user and the advertiser. Better integrations will happen when developers are spoken to earlier on in the process. 

What else should I know? 

Our research with Dentsu Data Labs earlier this year showed that seamless in-game advertising delivers significant ad awareness and brand recall in brand safe environments that offer a 31% more positive user experience compared to web display advertising. Furthermore, the study showed that eSports environments were up to five times more preferable for advertising, compared to other gaming genres.

It’s important not to overlook the global phenomenon that is eSports. While this represents a small percentage of the total value of the gaming industry, it is one which is growing fast. And, like music, sports attracts some of the most passionate and highly engaged audiences. It allows brands to reach some of the hardest-to-reach consumers, generally young digital natives, often while they’re engaging with their number one passion. This remains a remarkably untapped market, with a number of exciting commercial opportunities inherent within it.