There's a new "front" to add to your media marketplace lexicon. On April 5, in New York City, the IAB will be launching the IAB PlayFronts, a day dedicated to companies in the gaming space to show off their advertising opportunities to buyers and familiarize the marketplace with a medium that has been often overlooked and yet drives incredible engagement and passion with increasing frequency.
In a world of perpetual distraction, media fragmentation and multitasking, Zoe Soon, Vice President, Experience Center at the IAB sees gaming as a place where marketers can reach a focused audience. "Advertisers are needing to look elsewhere with the decline in linear TV," she asserts. "In a post-COVID world, it's hard to ignore the rising consumer attention that's going to gaming." One need only to look at how a game like Wordle has brought the world together around a game, in a positive way, to see the powerful impact that games have in our entertainment lives.
Ads in videogames are not new. There has been advertising in games for decades, which begs the question, why is now the time to add a new gaming Upfront? "I think it's the perfect storm," Soon says. For years, advertising has not been able to crack the "attention oasis" which is gaming. People spend over six hours a week gaming.
One of the main objectives of the PlayFronts is to give the buying community an opportunity to take another look at the definitions of and various categories within gaming, while also dispelling myths about the audiences that participate. One of the barriers that will likely be addressed is the issue that some brands have with potential associations with being seen in a first-person shooter or more intense game. Soon acknowledges that be a challenge, but ultimately, the marketer does have full control on which games they appear in. "I think there is a lack of research in the industry as to if there are negative brand effects on being next to shooter content, which, admittedly, is a large portion of gaming content," she says. "[But] don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are a lot of controls for buyers. Marketers can target by game title. It's an amazing way to contextually target. You can see what action will trigger the ad and where it will be placed. You can even see by frame where the ad will be placed and what it will be next to. There's also a lot of technology that's being developed that leverages AI to disable the ad when certain factors occur. For example, if someone swears over Discord while playing a game at a point where your ad is supposed to show, the AI will suppress your ad."
Another reason that an IAB PlayFronts is on this year's agenda relates to last year's release of the Gaming and eSports Advertising Framework developed jointly by the IAB and IAB U.K., a taxonomy of standard terms and ways of categorizing to make tagging easier, which, in addition, makes the blocking of certain areas of discomfort for a particular advertiser easier when running ads in games programmatically.
With the massive addition of new video content by non- or light-ad-supported streamers, on top of the decades of rich, beloved library content that is now easily accessible by consumers, the supply curve has exceeded the demand for advertising curve and lowered the attention for content subsidy value proposition that had been in place for decades.
Soon sees gaming advertising as one possible way to provide additional value to move closer to equilibrium. She points to Simulmedia's recent launch of PlayerWON as a small example. "They are mashing up OTT ads with gaming ads, and if you watch ads beforehand, you receive tokens that you can use in the game," she explains. "Players really like it because these are tangible rewards, and the value exchange is completely understandable to them." Soon also sees a lot less ad-resistance in the mobile free-to-play game sector.
While gaming specialty units within some media agencies do exist, such as Omnicom Media Group's Zero Code which was actually established nearly 20 years ago, and Dentsu's Dentsu Gaming division which launched in 2021, there still seems to be ambiguity within many agencies about which buyers are the go-to for gaming ads. The IAB is extremely excited about the potential for creating a marketplace for in-game advertising through the PlayFronts. While this year is a single day event, Soon expects that it will go multi-day in the future. She also believes that while agencies may jump on board at a faster rate on this first event, marketers will quickly follow.
The IAB PlayFronts will take place on April 5th at Convene in New York City.
IAB PlayFronts Presenter Schedule
Time and Presenter
9:20 a.m. -- 9:40 a.m.; Meta
9:40 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m.; Activision Blizzard
10:00 a.m. -- 10:20 a.m.; Frameplay
11:05 a.m. -- 11:25 a.m.; Niantic
11:25 a.m. -- 11:45 a.m.; Admix
11:50 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m.; Unity
1:00 p.m. -- 1:20 p.m.; Zynga
1:20 p.m. -- 1:40 p.m.; Bidstack
1:45 p.m. -- 2:05 p.m.; Riot Games
2:10 p.m. -- 2:35 p.m.; Anzu
3:15 p.m. -- 3:35 p.m.; Twitch
3:35 p.m. -- 3:45 p.m.; IGN
3:50 p.m. -- 4:10 p.m.; SuperAwesome, an Epic Games company
4:10 p.m. -- 4:30 p.m.; PlayerWON™
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