Publicis Media On What Has To Happen Before In-Game Ads Can Take Off

Samantha Lim, SVP of game strategy and innovation at Publicis Media

Publicis Media’s Samantha Lim will be speaking at the AdExchanger Industry Preview on February 7th in New York City. Click here to register.

The video game advertising market “isn’t very mature yet — but it’s growing,” said Samantha Lim, SVP of Gaming Strategy and Innovation at Publicis Media.

While there are more advertisers running tests, many are “interested but haven’t yet figured out how to fully engage,” Lim said.

One challenge is that advertisers are sensitive. “They don’t want to do anything that harms their brand,” she said, and many still see gaming content as a less than brand-safe environment. Not to mention brands that risk incurring the ire of players when their campaigns don’t match the games they’re running in.

But recent events are paving the way for more ad dollars to flow into gaming, including new standards for intrinsic in-game ads (such as ads appearing in gameplay rather than more traditional ad and video formats) and the fact that consoles -Giants like Sony and Microsoft are trying to monetize their free-to-play titles with advertising.

Lim spoke to AdExchanger about navigating these new advertising opportunities, growing intrinsic in-game ad inventory, and the next steps for in-game programmatic.

AdExchanger: What have been some of the key developments in the video game advertising market over the last year?

SAMANTHA LIM: There have been many more integration and customization options, and the immersive experiences that brands are building are making headlines in the industry. I’ve also heard more about companies hiring people focused on gaming.

What’s on the horizon for the gaming channel in 2023?

We will see that more and more game publishers and studios have test models where they show intrinsic in-game ads – depending on the game, of course. And there’s been a lot of talk about intrinsic in-game advertising on consoles. It’ll be interesting to see when these ads roll out – whether it’s 2023 or as far as 2024, depending on how testing goes now.

The gaming industry continues to experiment with monetization models, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see new ad formats being tested. And we will continue to see developments in game integrations that feel like rewards.

How can brands effectively reward gamers?

Providing a different look, like wearables or any kind of customization, [is effective] because players are interested in making the game a reflection of who they are. Gamers are drawn to things that show an interest in style, and this is where brands are experimenting. What I like about this approach is that you don’t have to create brand new ones [virtual] world to which you must then route traffic.

Are in-game ads on home consoles the next big thing, or are advertisers more focused on chasing custom integrations in metaverse-inspired online games like Roblox?

There will be both custom integrations and an intrinsic console. From my point of view, it’s more about the entire gaming ecosystem, i.e. not about one-off campaigns, but about the various touchpoints within gaming where a brand can take action. They ideally need a mix of the various touchpoints in-game, around-game, and outside of it.

How important are these “out of game” activations – things like esports sponsorships or influencer marketing?

Pretty important. Depending on what you want to do, they can sometimes be more prohibitive or have longer lead times, especially if you’re targeting an experiential event. But these activations are key, because there are communities built around them, and community is a really important part of gaming.

How well developed is the programmatic infrastructure for intrinsic in-game ads compared to around-the-game ads like interstitials and rewarded video?

The amount of inventory that can be run programmatically for intrinsic games is less developed. One of the challenges for intrinsic in-game programmatics is the creative aspect and the need for human review of the creative, especially when it comes to game developers who want to ensure they have a say in the advertising. If you have more custom units, they usually have to be direct I/O.

Around-the-game ads are definitely more programmatic. It’s been around longer and while the ads appear in-game, they’re not part of the gameplay or aesthetic of the world developed by the game studio.

What types of advertising campaigns are video games best for?

Intrinsic in-game ads tend to be more high-funnel, more about brand metrics than performance, as it’s rarely possible to click out of a game via an intrinsic in-game ad. But in-game placements can be more performance-driven.

What is the role of DSPs in building a programmatic infrastructure for in-game advertising?

I don’t think it’s just the DSPs. It is also up to the industry to agree on methods and purchasing standards. Even if we have the new standards from the IAB, that does not mean that they are widely used. Before DSPs can play a bigger role, more standardization needs to happen. From a technological point of view, there are things that can be done – for example, integrate with companies to provide measurement or attention metrics. But creativity will continue to be a challenge as long as developers need to have a say in the look and feel of intrinsic in-game ads.

This interview has been edited and abridged.