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Blog  |  June 30, 2020 |  4 min read
Establishing the framework for in-game advertising
Francesco Petruzzelli

Francesco Petruzzelli

Lockdown hasn’t just seen gaming and esports boost their mainstream status; it’s swiftly accelerated the advertising industry’s in-game evolution too.

In just a few months, Steam has set and smashed multiple user records; reporting 22 million concurrent gamers at last count. Call of Duty’s Warzone racked up 60 million new users weeks after its launch. Esports viewing has hit an all-time high — with CS:GO becoming one of the most-watched competitions ever — while Fortnite welcomed 12 million in-game players and a further 8.4 million viewers across YouTube and Twitch for its live Season 2 finale. Over one-fifth of players across the globe have increased the time they spend with video games.

The explosion in player numbers and engagement has also driven a spike in brand interest. Innovative brands that are keen to harness the unique opportunity for audience connection, are exploring different ways to get in the game; from the recent release of 100 Thieves apparel in Animal Crossing to Travis Scott’s exclusive Fortnite concert.

In-game advertising is rapidly accelerating, and it’s our mission to power that progress. At Bidstack, we’ve always advocated in-game ads that work for everyone. As the space grows, we’re more focused than ever on creating a framework that helps brands and developers to make in-game ads an integral part of their strategies, while preserving the joy of play. The end game for this framework is for in-game advertising to be recognised as a trusted advertising category in its own right.

A vision for in-game ads

Gaming offers huge scope for brands to reach diverse audiences when they’re at their most engaged and receptive. But brands need to feel safe on multiple levels in order to have the confidence to include gaming and esports as part of their media plans. Besides ensuring that ads appear in appropriate environments, brands also need to have some reassurance that their messages will have the best chance of powering positive responses within gaming environments. 

As a result, Bidstack’s blueprint is built around delivering ads that uphold the three pillars of trustworthiness, suitability, and effectiveness.

Because we believe maintaining authenticity is essential for brands, developers and users, our approach is based on deep integration within game design. Native ad insertion offers brands assurance that their messages will be seen in brand-safe, contextually sensitive and controlled environments. At the same time, minimal intrusion for players means that their immersion and enjoyment remains unbroken, and game creators can rest easy that they aren’t disrupting or negatively impacting their end-user.

Similarly, our commitment to quality has seen us make strides to bolster measurability and security across the Bidstack network. This includes leading the charge on efforts to define metrics for in-game ads and offering more granular analysis of campaign success and strengthening our fraud-fighting capabilities. Our acquisition of Pubguard, for instance, demonstrates our dedication to security by adding further layers of safety to our platform and collaborating on developing fraud prevention tools, viewability measures, and data processes for the gaming world. 

But we also understand that building a firm foundation for further growth will take more than individual action. To ensure consistent quality and confidence, we’re working closely with industry bodies, brands and advertisers to create standards that will establish in-game advertising as a trusted format and pave the way for more brands to leverage their benefits in the future.  

Gaining recognition for a new ad format

As well as aiming to raise the bar as high as possible, frameworks also have to be anchored to clear benchmarks. With this in mind, progress has centred around combining existing advertising standards and Bidstack’s extensive knowledge of the gaming world.

On the gaming and technology side, this has meant collaborating with developers to identify how collectively, we can bolster quality controls. For instance, devising a process within development cycles that allows for a seamless implementation of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IABs) ads.txt initiative without affecting game studio timelines and workloads; giving brands a transparent view of which vendors are licensed to inventory and which aren’t. 

Meanwhile, on the advertising and media side, our focus has extended even further; covering everything from the ad experience to industry recognised  verification. Bidstack not only follows core guidelines set out by the Coalition for Better Ads, but has also gained recognition for its dedication to best practice on multiple fronts; including membership of the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and JICWEBS brand safety certification — a seal of approval that requires alignment with strict principles laid out by the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG). 

Most recently, our efforts to reduce ad fraud, increase brand safety and improve user experience have been rewarded with Bidstack becoming the first multi-device in-game advertising platform to be awarded IAB Gold Standard certification.

A long-lasting framework for in-game ads is now starting to take shape, and a persistent focus on the fundamentals of good and safe advertising is the first part of this mission. As industry expansion continues to attract attention from brands, maximising security, transparency, and user satisfaction is crucial to keep industry growth and the gaming experience on track; that’s why Bidstack will be there to help guide industry development every step of the way.

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