NEWS Publicis Media on what has to happen before in-game advertising takes off

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

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

The video game ad market is “not very mature, but it’s growing,” said Samantha Lim, senior vice president of game strategy and innovation at Publicis Media.

Yet while more advertisers are testing it, many are “interested but haven’t figured out how to fully commit,” Lim said.

One of the challenges is that advertisers are sensitive. “They don’t want to do anything that damages their brand,” she said, and many still view gaming content as a less brand-safe environment. Not to mention, brands run the risk of pissing off gamers if their ad campaigns aren’t appropriate for the games they’re running.

But recent events have paved the way for more ad dollars to come into games, including new standards for in-game advertising (for example, ads that appear in-game rather than more traditional display and video formats) and the console giant’s In fact, companies like Sony and Microsoft are looking to monetize their free games through advertising.

Lim spoke with AdExchanger about navigating these new ad opportunities, the growth of native in-game ad inventory, and the next steps for in-game programmatic.

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

SAMANTHA LIM: There are more opportunities for integration and customization, and the immersive experiences that brands are creating are making headlines in the industry. I’ve also heard more about companies hiring people to focus on the game.

What’s next for gaming channels in 2023?

We’ll start to see more game publishers and studios have test models where they’ll introduce in-game ads — obviously, it depends on the game. And there’s been a lot of discussion around the inherent in-game ads on the console. It will be interesting to see when these ads roll out — whether in 2023 or 2024, depending on how testing is going now.

Across the gaming industry, experimentation with monetization models will continue, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see new ad formats being tested. We will continue to see the development of game integrations that feel like rewards.

How can brands effectively reward gamers?

provide different skins, such as wearables or some sort of customization, [is effective] Because gamers are interested in making games reflect who they are. Gamers tend to show interest in style, and that’s where brands are experimenting.What I like about this approach is that it doesn’t require you to create a whole new [virtual] Then you have to drive traffic into the world.

Are native 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?

It will be custom integrations and internal consoles. The way I look at things, it’s more about the entire gaming ecosystem, which means not doing one-off campaigns, but looking at the various touchpoints that a brand can activate within a game. Ideally, you need a mix of in-game, around-game, and out-of-game touchpoints.

How important are those “out-of-game” activities — like esports sponsorships or influencer marketing?

quite important. Sometimes, depending on what you’re trying to do, they can cost more or take longer to deliver, especially if you’re aligning with experiential events. But those activations are key because communities are built around them, and communities are a very important part of the game.

How developed is the programmatic infrastructure for intrinsic in-game advertising compared to “advertising around games” such as interstitials and rewarded video?

There are fewer inventories that can be run programmatically for in-game natives. One of the challenges inherent in in-game programmatic is the creative aspect and the need for human review of ad creative, especially when dealing with game developers who want to ensure they have a say in who is advertising. These often need to be direct IO when you have more custom units.

Ads around games are definitely more suitable for programmatic. It’s been around longer, and while the ads appear in the game, you’re not part of the gameplay or the aesthetics of the world developed by the game studio.

What kind of advertising campaign is best for video games?

In-game ads tend to be higher up the funnel, focusing more on brand metrics vs. performance, since few people are able to click through an in-game ad to exit the game. But the placement around the game may be more performance-driven.

How big of a role are DSPs playing in building out the programmatic infrastructure for in-game advertising?

I don’t think it just depends on the DSP. It is also up to the industry to agree on methodology and buying criteria. Even though we’ve got new standards from the IAB, that doesn’t mean they’re widely adopted. More standardization is needed before DSP can play a bigger role. From a technology standpoint, there are things that can be done — for example, integrating with companies to provide measurement or attention metrics. But as long as developers need to have a say in the look and feel of in-game ads, creativity will continue to be a challenge.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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