In-Game Advertising and the Metaverse: Q&A With Clearcode and Super League

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Companies and agencies are increasingly paying attention to the possibilities of in-game advertising within the metaverse. Ideas, budgets, and requirements are growing alongside the development of this new channel. The AdTech industry is, on the other hand, striving to establish new standards that will help brands effectively reach new customers.

In this video interview, Michael Sweeney, Head of Marketing at Clearcode, asked Ann Hand, Chairman & CEO of Super League Gaming, a series of questions about advertising in the metaverse.

Get in contact with Michael and Ann on LinkedIn:

Below is the transcript from the video interview above.

Michael Sweeney: Hello, everyone. My name is Michael Sweeney. I’m the Head of Marketing here at Clearcode. In today’s video, I’m joined by Ann Hand, who is the Chairwoman and CEO of Super League. We’re going to be talking about in-game advertising and the metaverse. Ann, thank you so much for joining me today.

Ann Hand: Thank you for having me.

What Super League does and what do you do?

Michael Sweeney: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what Super League does.

Ann Hand: There’s a lot to say about myself, but I don’t know if it’s that exciting to anybody else. I guess probably the thing that career-wise people kind of latch onto is the diversity of my background. 

I spent close to 20 years in large companies, specifically energy and retail companies like BP and McDonald’s. And then I kind of took a little bit of a wild leap into early-stage companies, first running a clean tech business and now running one that’s in the gaming entertainment sector.

So I spent a lot of my early career or early time in these roles kind of apologizing or feeling like I had to overexplain those kinds of several hops in my CV. But now I’ve just decided that it’s a positive thing and that I’m versatile, and I’ve kind of moved on from that. And it does just prove that business is business, right? You’re solving problems and applying very similar toolkits to those problems regardless of the industry or size of the business.

Super League is a company that’s been around for about eight years, and the original premise that really grabbed me and got me excited about it was the opportunity to debunk the myth of who an everyday gamer is these days, to latch onto the fact that gaming is now a lifestyle trend. It’s something people aren’t growing out of, and to find a new way to really help advertisers and brands talk to this young consumer base, which really represents a lot of the consumers that brands are seeking, and to educate them on the fact that a gamer is their customer too.

Michael Sweeney: I definitely agree with you that coming from a different industry is probably, in many cases, a positive thing because you get a fresh set of eyes, get to see things from different perspectives that a lot of people who have worked within the industry for a while don’t necessarily see.

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What’s Super League’s relationship with Minecraft and Roblox?

Michael Sweeney: Thanks very much for the intro about Super League. Just got a couple of follow-up questions about Super League itself. I noticed that on your website and just doing a bit of digging around and reading some other articles about Super League, that you guys have a connection with Minecraft and Roblox, right? The two very popular gaming environments. So just tell us a little bit more about Super League’s connection with those two environments because from what I understand, Super League has many different pillars of your business, right? You guys are one kind of game creator, maybe AdTech company and you guys have your own advertising platforms. You’ve got a studio option as well for ad creation. So, just expand on the connection between Super League, Minecraft, and Roblox.

Ann Hand: So I’d say first, to your point, we have really two primary things that we provide for brands and advertisers. The first is an opportunity to create immersive game experiences inside game worlds on platforms like Minecraft and Roblox. And I’ll talk about our relationship there in just a moment. 

And the second thing, as you mentioned, is we have a set of very innovative native intrinsic in-game ad products. That is another avenue that we can bring advertisers into the landscape of these games. 

Often, what we find is that the power of the Super League is brands want both. They want the experiential kind of product placement on steroids moment inside these game worlds, and they want it augmented with on-platform media products that allow us to really drive exponentially more traffic into that experience and deliver really off-the-charts types of engagement and ROI.

Our roots of starting really with Minecraft started in the early days of the company when we were saying “where are kids?” if we’re going to focus on kid gamers, what we saw was most of them were playing Minecraft. And what was great about Minecraft is that it has the underpinnings of STEM. It’s a very parent-friendly game because your kids are learning about coding. 

First, we really focused on that competitive gamer because that’s who we thought the hardcore avid gamer, that’s what they look like. But over time, the more that we worked with Minecraft, our eyes were kind of opened up to the fact that actually, a lot of the kids were in there not for competition. They were in there to harness the power of open-world platforms like Minecraft and Roblox, as it puts the tools in the hands of everyday players.

And so what it means is that they get to create their own game experiences, and many of them are there not just to create or compete, but they also want to socialize. It’s really just an extension of their physical life. It’s like a digital cul-de-sac or playground or hangout spot. 

And so the more we learned through working with Minecraft in the early days, the more we started to say, you know, we really want to double down on where we think the world’s going, which is more of these open-world types of games where the player themselves gets to change the landscape of the game. 

And we just saw that as really empowering, sticky, and exciting, and that led to our jump into Roblox starting a few years ago, and now we reach over 100 million monthly unique players in those two platforms combined. So we’ve been able, by really focusing on that type of genre of game platform, we’ve been able to really gain depth and scale, which is what advertisers seek.

Where can brands show ads inside games?

Michael Sweeney: I think another follow-up question there. So, with regards to the ad platforms that you guys have, where brands can show ads inside these games, is it generally ads inside your own game that you create, or are they showing ads across many different games in those environments?

Ann Hand: Yeah, it’s a good question. 

The power of what Super League has built is this tech and capability backbone, so to speak. And it’s a tech and capability backbone that we are applying to platforms like Minecraft and Roblox. 

So what it means, if you could imagine almost like a solar system, right? If Super League’s ad tech and capability is the sun of that universe, then what we do is we operate some of our own mini-game worlds or planets that are plugged into that technology, that backbone. But it’s also an opportunity for anybody who develops an exciting mini-game world or planet in those platforms to tether onto our backbone as well. What that means is they get a whole set of analytics to make their planet or the mini-game world more robust, exciting, and monetizable for their own needs. But it also means they can participate in our ad economy.

So if you step back and imagine this wider solar system, we have hundreds of games plugged into that universe that we operate, and we control the pathways between the game worlds, too. When we talk about bringing brands into games, either through immersive experiences or their brands into those in-game ad products, we’re able to find the appropriate set of game worlds that really speak to the kind of target they’re seeking, right? Because a Barbie girl’s different than a Hot Wheels’ boy. And so we select from our universe what is the right network of games that will give the advertiser the type of audience that they’re seeking in a very targeted way.

And so that’s the power of how we’ve been able to aggregate and achieve scale. It’s because this underlying foundation of creating great creator tools and the creator economy has really incentivized all the creators inside this greater platform to have a participation, a piece of the upside by joining the Super League network.

How do you navigate the complex regulations around advertising to children across different regions?

Michael Sweeney: Perfect. Sounds good. So just a side-question here because you mentioned before that I guess, especially with environments like Minecraft, Hot Wheels, Barbie, that kind of thing, obviously, the audience is children, right? And there are obviously a lot of different regulations depending on the country, the state you live in, in America. There are different regulations around showing advertising to children. 

So is that a challenge you face as a company that provides advertising predominantly targeted toward children? Or is it like, you know, there would be specific brands whose target audiences are children? And there are no barriers that you would face in other environments, right? I guess the brands themselves would know what the restrictions are. For example, when it comes to advertising to children. Is it like that? Is there the difference kind of a bit nuanced where it’s not so much of an issue?

Ann Hand: It’s both, really. 

As you said in your last point, we served over 100 brands last year. These are sophisticated global brands. They know and have their own kind of sets of guardrails around the audiences that they’re trying to reach and want to reach. It’s appropriate to reach also one of the hallmarks of Super League because we’ve always stood for not just inclusive, safe, positive gaming and debunking that myth of who a player is, as I mentioned earlier, it’s always been as well about a safe marketing channel. And so COPPA compliant, we have kidSAFE certification. 

Those are kind of hallmarks that the brand is known as a trusted place to put marketing dollars. And to your point, that being said, we as well can ensure that a brand who wants to reach an over 13 audience, we’re directing them that way, right? So it’s got to be the appropriate brand. 

And again, the sophistication of the brands that we’re working with, they’ve already got that high bar they’ve set for themselves. That’s the power of us really understanding our network and making sure that we’re putting that advertising appropriately in front of an audience that is considered 13 and over.

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, perfect. Awesome.

So obviously, Super League has been around since 2014, I believe, and you’ve been at the company since 2015. So what have been some of the main changes and trends within the in-game advertising industry over those years? Because advertising in games has been around since games were around pretty much always, with things like product placement or that kind of stuff. 

But I think it’s only been the past few years that the whole in-game advertising industry has really picked up speed. And there’s been a lot of press coverage about in-game advertising over the past few years. So what have been some of the changes and trends that you’ve noticed over those years working at a company that is in this industry?

Ann Hand: Yeah, in the early days we were focusing much more, as I mentioned earlier, on that competitive gamer, and so we were thinking much more… We were kind of dragging off that trend of e-sports, and the establishment of professional teams and leagues and tournaments, and we were thinking a lot about amateur leagues, for kids and young adults. And so again, a tighter focus on that more hardcore gamer. 

Then we started to go through that journey and realize that our safe and positive brand positioning was actually a distinctive place to stand, that we had a point of view about positive gaming, that gaming can be good for you in the right context, that we really felt a leading position. And by choosing that path, it really meant that we were going to be focusing more on these games that are just as much about creation and socialization. 

If you understand a lot of the game worlds inside Minecraft and Roblox, you’ll know that there aren’t winners and losers. That’s not the way the games are designed. They’re role-playing games. They’re games where it’s much more about the socialization aspects. So the company started to really say: “Let’s focus more on these types of worlds.”

What happened to the landscape of the ad world through that process is that we were starting in the early days, and we were small, right? We didn’t have a real scale. The only way advertisers were going to come and put dollars to work with us was really more because there was a lot of brand alignment. They saw the promise of what could be over time. Companies like Logitech spent money as a top-down sponsor with us trying to get to young kids and their parents. Nickelodeon as well, Cinemark theaters. 

What’s interesting about those three names I mentioned just there is at the same time, they became investors in us. And that just shows all the more in some ways that their sponsorship was almost more just putting a toe in the water, and we weren’t going to change their marketing strategy for the year materially, but they saw the future of where things were going, and they wanted that opportunity to invest in us and collaborate. 

In fact, it just got announced today that we won a Webby Award with Paramount and MTV, one of our investors, for a red carpet experience we recreated for the Video Music Awards last year for MTV in the metaverse. So it’s fun, five years later to see that those things that look like small sponsorships have turned into material, important parts of their marketing strategies.

And because we were also more narrowly looking at that kind of e-sports category in those earliest days, we were mimicking what we were seeing with the professional e-sports team layer, even though, of course, we weren’t going to attract the kinds of dollars they could because we didn’t have all those giant viewership numbers. 

But certainly, we were much more sponsorship-focused. And what’s changed now is instead of being event-focused or tournament-focused and sponsorship-focused, we’re really talking about 24/7 persistent worlds and volume of players that allow us to create some really exciting temporal experiences. But instead of them lasting an hour or 2 hours, they can last weeks or longer. And as well augment them with those very clever in-game ad products. 

When I talk about in-game ad products, we’re not talking about pop-up banners, and we’re not talking about things that interrupt the gameplay or jump in front of the player. We’re talking about native products baked into the landscape. Maybe it’s SpongeBob off in the distance, standing under a tree in the game, and it’s your opportunity if you choose to go over and talk to him.

Or maybe off in the distance of a cityscape, there’s a dynamic billboard that has a funny meme on it. It’s your choice to go over and decide if you want to view that content. Just like when you’re driving down a street in real life, the billboards don’t jump out in the road in front of you. That distinction of these very engaging ad products that we believe enhance the game experience and don’t interrupt or block it is a distinction from what you see classically when people talk about in-game advertising, even mobile game advertising tends to be pop-up banners and overrides and things that you have to kind of opt out of or move to continue your gameplay.

Is Super League still involved in e-sports?

Michael Sweeney: Definitely. I think that’s an incredibly important point that you just made there about the difference between pure in-game ads and traditional banner ads or pop-up ads that you would see, for example, on a mobile game. I think that’s quite an important distinction to make when talking about in-game advertising versus in-app advertising, which is a kind of different format industry. So yeah, it’s a quite important distinction you made there.

Just a quick question around the e-sports part that you just mentioned before. You said that Super League started with the sponsorship of e-sports tournaments, etc. Is that still a part of your business, or is it something that you’ve moved away from a little bit into other areas? Is it still something that Super League is involved in?

Ann Hand: So here’s how it happens now. When we were doing some of that e-sports work in the earliest days, we were a small company. A lot of the power of e-sports was creating great broadcast. And so we have some proprietary tech, a fully remote virtual production room that we can do a very high-quality tournament live broadcast that has minimal audio-video lag – like milliseconds, and it’s special enough that we continue to use it for all kinds of use cases.

Last year we did a pretty big activation with Samsung Galaxy, with the Charli XCX pop concert inside one of our Roblox worlds. They don’t want just the players to get to see Charli XCX sing in her metaverse avatar persona. They want the live feed because they want a great broadcast to put on their Twitch channel and for all the people who like Samsung and Charli XCX but maybe not our ROBLOX players.

We were the company that could very affordably add a super high quality and provide them that broadcast. In fact, that event was up for an MTV VMA award for the best metaverse concert. So, we still use that technology. 

And back to your earlier question, when a brand comes to us and says, you know what, for obvious reasons, it could be an alcohol brand or Red Bull or just somebody who’s targeting an older demographic, if they’re looking for like an over 18 demographic, we’ll take some of that tournament tech and broadcast tech, and we can still deliver them a solution that helps them reach an older gamer.

So it’s not the core kind of where we have the largest audience numbers, but it’s certainly a capability that we’re known for. And we have companies we’ve worked with for years like Topgolf, who has fantastic physical golf facilities, fun places, entertainment, golf, you know, locations. But they also own a golf video game called World Golf Tour. And they want to reach and engage with their audiences beyond when they visit their physical sites. And so we run monthly broadcast tournaments for them and for others.

Ann Hand defines the Metaverse as an extension of our reality

What is your definition of the Metaverse?

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, sounds good. So you’ve touched on this topic a second ago with Roblox, but I wanted to ask a couple of questions now about the metaverse. It’s a very hot topic and a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. So, I guess the question is, what is your definition of the metaverse?

There are some people out there that say that the metaverse isn’t really here yet because one of the fundamental pillars of the metaverse is interoperability between different virtual worlds. Right? It’s kind of, you know, people say that the metaverse is essentially just a virtual world that mimics your real life. What is your definition of the metaverse? And what are some of the examples of what you’ve seen?

Ann Hand: Yeah, I try not to really limit myself and to think it has to be the complete max definition of full interoperability. I talk a lot to CMOs and also my investors because they get a little kind of turned off by in many ways, the unfortunate missteps of some other companies that have gone into the metaverse. So maybe perhaps a little too boldly thinking they could live into that max definition of faster than is really possible.

And here’s the truth. The truth is your physical life isn’t fully interoperable anyway. You can’t actually move your music from Apple to somewhere else. So this notion that full interoperability, there are plenty of ways we operate in all kinds of Walled Gardens today. And so, to me, I look at that notion of full interoperability – could it happen? Well, a lot of really smart people try to think about how it could happen, sure. But I don’t think it’s happening in the next five or ten years. And the reason is just that the amount of cooperation and regulation that would be required it’s astounding.

You know, to first get people to want to share their customers, share their data, share and put at risk their own profits for sake of directing them elsewhere to competitors. I mean, that’s asking a lot. Now, could I see a couple of players jumping off and trying to build a use case by showing interoperability between them? Could Facebook and Microsoft attempt to do something? Or maybe. But this notion of a fully integrated world to me, we’re many years away from.

What I try to talk a lot to again, brands and investors about is, look, here’s the thing, – and this is the way I think of the metaverse – and it just so happens it started in gaming, but it’s kind of like forget gaming in a way.

In gaming, you can create your own custom avatar, and you can traverse virtual worlds that can mimic things you can do in real life. You can go to a concert, and you can play soccer, you can do all kinds of things. 

And because it’s very customized and personalized, it has a lot of ways that it replicates your physical self. If you ask a young person today to talk about the physical versus digital self, they don’t really see them as separate things. They see them as an extension. And in fact, if anything, a digital self is a place where you can experiment more. I can change my hairstyle five times a day, and in an hour, I can test the boundaries of my physical persona and interest. So there’s something really empowering about it.

So then, another trend that I think is important to define in my terms of what the metaverse is, is just the way screens are changing so fast in our lives. They’re getting smarter. 

For example, if you’ve seen a 4K TV, I mean, gosh, it makes you feel like you’re watching that soccer match or you’re more in that concert. You don’t need a VR headset to have that really amazing 2D experience, and what I say to brands often is, what I think of the interactions that we can create for them inside worlds, that kind of Web 2.0 interactions where we can create a very immersive experience for players to go into these experiences and feel that experience of that concert or playing inside Barbie’s Dreamhouse, that is, in my opinion, kind of a first step of metaverse. And whether you fully believe in or you even understand blockchain and crypto and all that, that can still just be built on the existing financial economy that we have. 

So in my opinion, we’re already in the metaverse inside these existing game platforms. And I think what’s going to happen, why I talk so much about the smarter screens, is look at the .com experience in general. Just go to any website out there. 

Most websites still kind of look like the website that was built in 2000. They really haven’t evolved that much. And yet again, our expectations for a more intimate experience are shifting.

So to me, what I’m excited about with Super League is that smart backbone of tech and capability that we just so happen to be applying right now and these game engines, we are starting to have conversations with brands and saying, what if we took that same tech and started transforming your .com experience? What if when you went to these websites, you did have a much more personalized shopping experience, a more intimate way that feels customized and personalized.

And to me, 2.5 Web is right around the corner. It’s here now. And again, that’s not dependent on interoperability, and it’s not dependent on the blockchain.

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, you made some fantastic points there because the metaverse definition is a kind of point of contention as well. And I totally agree. I don’t think it’s kind of valuable to get too bogged down in the definition of the metaverse. I think it’s more important, as you said, especially for brands and agencies, to look at the opportunities that exist now rather than kind of wait for the metaverse to evolve because you would have missed the opportunity.

Have you seen demand from advertisers to test the metaverse?

So regarding the whole metaverse and brands, have you started to see more brands come to you and say: “we want to start getting involved in the metaverse, we want to start testing it out”? Have you seen a lot of demand from advertisers to test the waters of the metaverse?

Ann Hand: Yeah, for sure. As I said, we served over 100 brands last year. The arc of the conversations usually begins, and sometimes it will come from the brand itself or maybe their agency, but there’ll be a larger campaign or objective. A piece of the RFP will state, “Because we’re targeting this young, gaming audience, what are different ways that we can have this be a component of a larger campaign?”

We find that with a lot of brands, they first dip their toe in and need to get that education going about this very innovative alternative way to reach these audiences and get that deep engagement. Typically, once they get a taste of it, it starts to become a core part of every one of their campaigns going forward. Last year, we had about ten brands that, when you add up all their activations, did well north of $1,000,000 of business with us. However, it might be Universal, and a piece might be for the Minions movie release and then for the Bad Guys release and separate movie releases. We also have other brands who understand the space much better, and they’re putting $1,000,000+ to work with us for singular campaigns.

So, the old adage of advertising holds true: the more scale and the more the brand goes through the education curve, the greater share of the wallet we can take. We’re already seeing that significant change happening. Moreover, what’s exciting is that it’s one thing to say, “Okay, I get it. I understand that the audience has moved, and I need to go where the audience is.” Nobody disputes the astounding numbers. We have hundreds of millions of gamers deeply engaged in these open-world platforms. Recent stats show that the average time spent in these open-world platforms is like 7.5 hours a week, compared to about 5.5 hours on social media.

This realization prompts brands to say, “Wait a minute, I need to stop thinking about this as, ‘Oh, I’ve got my media spend, and what I’m going to do on traditional digital, and then I’ve got this gaming thing’.” Now, this is just a new social channel. The question then becomes: How do you allocate across all of those digital channels? Because in many ways, this isn’t gaming by the traditional definition many of us have. It’s simply where people hang out, congregate, and influence each other.

Once the brand grasps this concept, the conversation shifts. It becomes about how they should approach their annual program, no longer just buying campaigns. They need to think about their media mix differently so that they allocate the appropriate share to this new social channel, just as they had to shift their dollars around ten or fifteen years ago with the advancement of social media channels. This is merely a new channel vying for those dollars, and the dollars are starting to shift over in more material ways.

Do brands recognize that in-game advertising and advertising in the metaverse involve distinct creative content?

Michael Sweeney: Regarding the actual in-game ads, as you mentioned earlier, advertisers are starting to incorporate in-game advertising and advertising in the metaverse as part of their media mix. I suppose there would be a little more work involved in creating the creative content for in-game ads compared to ads on social media or banner ads on a website, right? 

Do brands understand that in-game advertising and advertising in the metaverse are quite different in terms of the actual creative content that is shown? Are they prepared to invest more time and money in creating something that becomes part of the immersive experience rather than just a pop-up like you would see in other channels?

Ann Hand: Yeah, I’ll answer that in two ways. It’s highly relevant to my ongoing conversations with global heads of media from some of the biggest brands. They tell me that traditional digital media isn’t effective anymore. It used to be a significant part of their global investment, but they’re not reaching the same audience with a 15-second spot on platforms like YouTube or Facebook. They understand the need to shift their dollars to where the audience is, but they need to grasp the differences in measurement.

Regarding your question about content and measurement, it’s a valid concern. In-game advertising, such as our Barbie Dreamhouse pop-up experience or 3D non-playing character Barbies promoting the Dreamhouse within games, requires different content and faces measurement challenges without the same clickability as banner ads.

Now, in terms of length and cost, creating an immersive pop-up experience like Barbie’s Dreamhouse with interactive elements like DJing and trying on clothes involves game development investment and takes 1 to 2 months. It’s similar to engaging product placement that generates awareness and excitement.

On the other hand, 3D non-playing characters, digital billboards, and similar media products have creation costs and timeframes comparable to other graphic ads. This scalability excites brands as they see the potential to reach larger audiences. The combination of pop-up experiential activations and scalable media products creates a powerful impact.

Let me share another interesting conversation I had with brands, using Barbie’s Dreamhouse as an example. We ran it for 30 days in October to celebrate its anniversary, and it received 60 million visits with an average dwell time of 7,8 minutes, surpassing expectations. However, it was taken down on November 1st after fulfilling its marketing objectives.

This raised the question of why it couldn’t be a permanent virtual billboard. Imagine a rotating experience billboard tied to different Barbie activations throughout the year. For instance, 3D virtual counterparts of new Barbie dolls could be featured in the Dreamhouse before their physical release, testing children’s excitement and promoting availability. This challenges the notion that investments with longer lead times and higher costs should have a limited lifespan. Instead, they could become persistent assets with extended lifetimes.

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, I think you made some important points about the differences between in-game advertising and other channels, particularly in terms of engagement. Brands are realizing that traditional media channels are no longer effective for them. There are various reasons for this, but one notable phenomenon is banner blindness, which even affects web advertising and mobile app ads. It seems to be creeping into social media platforms as well. Personally, when I come across sponsored ads on Instagram, I can easily recognize them and just keep scrolling without paying much attention. This trend is extending to newer channels as well.

In-game advertising, on the other hand, offers highly engaging experiences for audiences. It goes beyond just advertising and promotion; it takes on a new role for brands. This aspect makes it particularly interesting and valuable.

Ann Hand: There are a lot of studies out there showing exactly that scroll fatigue that you’re talking about and the fact that our eyes are getting trained to skip ads.

Michael Sweeney: Yes.

Ann Hand: So, you know, it’s a real thing, and I’ve experienced it as well. It will be an exciting challenge for the in-game side to appropriately help advertisers understand the measurement and what they can expect from it. We don’t want it to be just hype with big numbers thrown around. The goal is to genuinely build preference, loyalty, and ultimately convert that into sales of their products. Like any new marketing channel, there are challenges to overcome, just as we’ve seen when transitioning from radio to TV, cable, and digital. Each shift required adapting to changes in content, measurement, and understanding the landscape and what to expect.

Has introducing IAB Tech Lab standards provided brands with more confidence in leveraging in-game advertising?

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, definitely.

So, you’ve brought up the next question, which is about measurement. It’s undoubtedly a crucial aspect for advertisers and brands. They want to understand whether their ads or campaigns have had any impact, right?

Last year, the IAB Tech Lab introduced measurement standards specifically for in-game advertising. Have you come across these standards, and have they had any impact on your business and the conversations you’ve been having with brands? I imagine that having a standard for measuring in-game ads provides a framework for brands to assess their performance. In the past, the lack of measurement capabilities may have been a barrier for some brands. Has the introduction of these IAB Tech Lab standards helped overcome those obstacles and provided brands with more confidence in leveraging in-game advertising?

Ann Hand: I think the introduction of the IAB Tech Lab standards has definitely been helpful, and I believe that the IAB plays a critical role in this area.

The reality is that although it’s a starting point and a baseline, it’s still a different landscape. Advertisers are trying to shift their budget from traditional digital marketing, which they feel is failing them. This is evident in the declining ad numbers for platforms like Facebook. However, they are facing challenges because each brand has its own media mix formula.

Moving dollars to something that measures differently poses a struggle for them. Traditional forms of advertising found ways over time to address these challenges. When I was younger, if I watched a commercial on TV, there were formulas and methods to infer its effectiveness. For example, looking at the sales of Barbie dolls after seeing the ad. While it wasn’t perfect and lacked direct clickability, it provided insights into the effectiveness of the marketing spend.

The key is to go beyond the initial measurement standards and show advertisers that their investment is translating into real-life marketing objectives. That’s where the focus should lie.

I understand the reasons why companies and Walled Gardens like Roblox and Minecraft control their first-party data and economy. It makes complete sense. However, there is also a great opportunity to enable brands and advertisers, who want to reach the audience on these platforms, to drive physical conversion. That, to me, is an exciting evolution for these platforms and the Holy Grail. It will make it a no-brainer for brands. The engagement effectiveness of campaigns in terms of sentiment and interaction is exceptional. For instance, when you can have a conversation with a Barbie character and gauge audience excitement, it surpasses the need for traditional focus groups.

Especially for young brands, instead of going through costly R&D testing or supply chain processes, they can experiment by dropping 3D models of new toys into game worlds digitally. Within hours of work, they can gather audience feedback and insights without the logistical challenges.

I believe it will bring about a change not only in how these big brands market and achieve their higher objectives but also in how they engage with audiences. Just as platforms enable everyone to be a creator, brands can become creators and involve their consumers in co-creating the future of toy lines, intellectual property, branded products, and more.

Michael Sweeney: That’s indeed an intriguing use case of in-game advertising, particularly for product testing. It exemplifies some of the less obvious yet promising opportunities. I’m glad you found it interesting. So, regarding X and Y, those were the main topics we discussed today. Is there anything else you would like to add or any other questions you have?

Ann Hand: No, just thank you for having me. It’s been fun talking to you, Michael.

Michael Sweeney: Yeah, likewise. Thank you so much for joining me today. And if anyone wants to get in touch with yourself, obviously I’ll leave links to Super League’s website, your LinkedIn account, Twitter as well if they want to get in touch and learn more about Super League, that’s the way to do it. Once again, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been great getting your insights on Internet advertising in the metaverse. So thank you so much.

Ann Hand: Thank you.

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