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Frameplay’s Cary Tilds on intrinsic advertising and measuring interaction

Monetization in mobile has often been contingent on advertising, but companies like Frameplay are placing their bets on a new way, intrinsic advertising
Frameplay’s Cary Tilds on intrinsic advertising and measuring interaction

Monetisation is a key element and consistent challenge faced by game developers and publishers in the mobile space. In the absence of the usual premium pricing widely accepted by console and PC audiences, developers need to be creative in order to ensure a return on their investment. One way of doing this has been through the delivery of in-game advertising, but this has not always been perceived positively by players.

The typically accepted forms of advertising such as banner ads, interstitial advertising and playable ads are however, facing new competition as companies such as Frameplay bet their business on intrinsic advertising instead.

Intrinsic advertising is advertising that appears within the ‘game world’ itself. Whereas more widely used forms such as interstitial advertising occurs between gameplay segments. For an early example, look at 1999’s Sega arcade game ‘Crazy Taxi’, which features prominent real-life brands such as KFC and the now-defunct Tower Records.

We got the chance to ask some questions to the Chief Strategy & Operations Officer at Frameplay, Cary Tilds, about how Frameplay has been approaching this advertising model. Your company specialises in intrinsic advertising, can you give us a brief description of what that means to you?

Cary Tilds: Frameplay enables game developers to easily place impactful advertising intrinsically within video game environments without disrupting the gameplay performance or experience. The result is amplified brand exposure for advertisers, additional revenue for developers, and an enjoyable, uninterrupted experience for gamers.

How does intrinsic advertising differ to other forms of advertisement, in terms of user engagement and the philosophy behind it?

The major difference intrinsic in-game advertising brings to other forms of advertisements is that the ads are “in the game”, a seamless part of the gameplay environment versus ads that are “next to the game” or ads that are “around the game”.

The IAB Gaming and Esports Advertising Framework states, “As the gaming ad market continues to grow rapidly and demand for innovative new formats intensifies, we have worked with our members and industry partners from the UK, Europe and US to create a unified advertising framework for gaming and esports.” This framework points out the difference between people who play video games and people who watch people play video games. Within the classification of people who play video games, the framework points out Ad Context, which is “The context within which an ad may be served.” The following chart shows the different Ad Context choices for in-game advertising:

How does Intrinsic Time-in-view differ to other metrics in measuring player’s ad engagement?

Attention metrics, like Frameplay’s Intrinsic Time-in-View (ITiV), an intrinsic in-game viewability duration metric, offer valuable insights to brands and developers using intrinsic in-game ads. This paves the way for the future of in-game ads. Metrics such as this weren’t widely known or recognized by the industry, until now.

Frameplay is a leading contributor to the newly released IAB intrinsic in-game measurement guidelines 2.0. The IAB clearly states these guidelines are separate from measurements for Interstitial Ads, Banner (Web Based) ads, and in-stream or outstream video ads. These clear delineations show how intrinsic in-game ads are different from all other types of digital ads, in-game or not, and help advertisers plan their campaigns accordingly.

Frameplay’s Intrinsic Time-in-View attention metric was up and running well before these guidelines were ratified by the IAB. We’ve had time to refine and improve our SDK well before they became the industry standard, so we are very uniquely positioned to help brands and developers thrive with intrinsic in-game ads.

Tell us more about how viewability is measured

Within the IAB Standard, Viewability isn’t counted unless two simple criteria are met:

Pixel Requirement: Greater than or equal to 50% of the pixels [of the intended creative] in the advertisement were visible from the game player’s perspective or on the game player’s screen on a fully downloaded (where necessary for gameplay), opened, initialized application or software, on the viewable space of the device, and

Time Requirement: The time the pixel requirement is met was greater than or equal to one continuous second, post ad render (Impression measurement).

Furthermore, viewability doesn’t count if the gamer isn’t actively playing or moving in the game environment. These rules create a fair and balanced template for the future, ensuring brands get great placement in virtual environments and developers get compensated fairly for their contribution.

One example from the IAB’s 2.0 Guidelines that shows this is Occlusion Determination. They define it as “an instance where the In-Game ad unit is blocked from view either totally or partially during game play, and therefore the User’s opportunity to see the creative is diminished.” Occlusion is not a mandatory measurement, but Frameplay’s capability includes occlusion detection. It’s another instance of our team identifying and implementing the best practices for gamers, developers and brands instead of waiting for the industry to catch up.

Why and how should advertising change, in your opinion?

Advertising needs to get back to its roots to focus on the right message, with the right content (context) and the right mindset (are they open to receiving the message?). Until now, digital advertising has depended largely on third party cookies to understand the right content, context and mindset of the consumer. With third party cookie depreciation, the industry must rethink content, context, and mindset approaches.

Understanding where a brand’s audience is spending time and what mindset they are in when they are engaging with this content will be the focus. Brands have used viewability as a way to ensure that the advertisements are seen. However, that doesn’t go far enough to understand if consumers have paid attention to the ads. Attention measurement will further help brands understand not only were the ads seen, but also were they paid attention to. Finally, good old fashioned brand lift (survey) based research will continue to reinforce consumers feedback on brand recall, likeability of the ad (receptivity), and purchase intent.

The biggest change in advertising should be a refocus on the quality of the content itself. What kind of content is the consumer experiencing? Is it high-quality so the brand association will also be high-quality? Is it lean forward or lean back? Do the ad placements make sense and are they authentic to that environment?

What’s Frameplay’s role in making this happen?

Frameplay is poised to win as we enable intrinsic in-game advertisements into high-quality game environments, where the ad experience is designed by the game developer. The game developer optimizes the ad placement to make sense in the game. Further, the gamer is very accepting of these ads as noted in the recent Intrinsic In-Game Advertising Report, where “Intrinsic in-game ad types are the most preferred ad types among gamers.” The outcomes achieved have been significant breakthrough in attention and incredible brand lift results from 30+ Comscore and Happydemics surveys, reinforcing recall, likability, and purchase intent.

What has the market reaction been to the idea of intrinsic ads? Is there still resistance, and how do you bring people around to this new idea?

Before now, intrinsic in-game advertising was hard-coded, requiring long timelines and
expensive implementation. With Frameplay, we have amassed an ecosystem of games with the mission to offer intrinsic in-game advertising as a consistent, scalable option to the advertising community.

As we educate the market, including brands, agencies and even industry organizations that this capability exists, they are leaning into the idea that they can connect to gamers in an authentic way that doesn’t disrupt gameplay. As they see incredible results, they continue to work with us.

The opportunity is clearly important to agencies as many have created unique capabilities surrounding getting advertising right in the game, including dentsu Gaming, Publicis Play, and IPG Media Lab Gaming.

Continuing education will grow the industry, moreover rethinking some of the planning and buying tools which are not yet consistent in categorising gaming in the context of other opportunities. For example, instead of research reports showcasing mobile, display, video and social in one combined graph, those reports should delineate the difference between content consumption channels, platforms, and ad types. Frameplay has made significant progress with our partners to up the adtech game in order for advertisers to truly plan, buy and measure gaming at scale. We invite the rest of the industry to join us.

What’s in store for Frameplay in 2023?

2023 will be a significant growth year for Frameplay and the intrinsic in-game advertising sector overall. Our focus will be to continue to educate and inspire the industry to put the gamer experience at the centre of in-game advertising. We will continue to support our valued game developers in optimising their games with intrinsic in-game advertising. We will grow our efforts to ensure the advertising industry fully embraces and optimises their opportunity to get in the game!

Overall, Frameplay seems to be very optimistic about the potential of intrinsic in-game advertising. However, they note that there’s still a lot of convincing to be done about how this ‘new’ method of advertising can benefit all parties, including the player. Frameplay previously offered research that indicated the majority of players preferred the idea of intrinsic advertising compared to other options.