Interview

Rovio VP of advertising Jarkko Rajamäki discusses in-game ads approach

"There is necessarily no one size fits all solution..."

Rovio VP of advertising Jarkko Rajamäki discusses in-game ads approach

As part of PocketGamer.biz's partnership with AdInMo for #InGameAdMonth, we spoke to Rovio's vice president of advertising Jarkko Rajamäki about the studio's approach to in-game ads, its place within the global mobile market and how developers can take advantage of the new opportunities being created by the format.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Rovio?

Jarkko Rajamäki: I work with our super talented team to make sure advertising in our games is fun for the player and delivers great results for the advertisers. I’ve been in the mobile games and in-game ad space for over 10 years and have had the privilege of witnessing the massive growth of our industry.

Rovio was a pioneer in mobile gaming and has seen massive changes in the market. What’s the company’s experience of advertising?

We truly have come a long way from banner ads to rewarded video and brand integrations. Back in the days, we had paid and ad-supported versions of our games, and even then both versions had their audience. So it’s been a natural path for us to continue, knowing that for mobile game monetisation.

I’m pretty sure that if you ask three ad industry people, you’ll get four different answers
Jaarko Rajamäki

What is actually meant by ‘native’ in-game advertising?

That is a good question. I’m pretty sure that if you ask three ad industry people, you will get four different answers. But that’s fine if that incoherence is a sign of innovation happening.

What’s the state of play in terms of advertising in mobile games? What’s the current norm?

Nowadays more and more developers understand that in a successful free-to-play (F2P) mobile game, the players should find multiple different ways of enjoying the game. In-app purchases (IAP) and in-game ads can complement each other - they're not substitutes for each other. It’s about understanding that not all players are the same, play the game in similar ways, or value the same things.

In-game/in-play ads seem to have become a hot topic. Do you think their time has come, or is this a short-term reaction to the widespread aversion to incentivised ads?

I’ve seen first-hand that well designed in-game advertising can actually make the game more fun, increase retention and have no adverse effects on other monetisation key performance indicators (KPIs). It would be foolish to think of such opportunities being a fad.

Image credit: Rovio

How should developers be thinking about in-game ads, in terms of design and development?

The key ingredient of success with in-game ads is that you should try to aim at holistic monetisation design, where you don’t separate in-game ads from the game design process itself. Such holistic design should be a collaborative process, where the core game team, various studio craft specialists, such as business intelligence (BI) and ad monetisation managers work seamlessly together.

Free-to-play game designers should always put the player at the centre and offer different options
Jaarko Rajamäki

Free-to-play game designers should always put the player at the centre and offer different options and value propositions to choose from. Of course, you should aim at designing great games that players find worth paying for, but you should also think of ways the non-paying players can enjoy the games. For example, every time I see a 'buy out ads' offer in a game, I tend to think that it is an example of in-game ads being badly misunderstood.

What are the next big opportunities for in-game advertising?

There is still lots of room for innovation in the gaming industry. It's possible to build ads organically into the game and not in a way where the ads are just an external vehicle to churn out coins or other in-game currency. This makes ads more engaging for the players and potentially more attractive to the advertisers.

Image credit: Rovio

Are in-game ads opening up new potential for closer partnerships with brands and intellectual property owners?

Absolutely! It would be awesome to find the silver bullet to get brand advertisers all-in with in-game ads. Games reach a massive, engaged audience for advertisers and there are still many untapped opportunities for brands. That said, the ball is also in our court. We need to find new, scalable formats and ways to offer in-game or in-play ads, sponsorships and exciting new brand integrations.

The number one KPI for us is that the game is fun...
Jarkko Rajamäki

How is Rovio treating in-game ads? Is it something the company will consider for every game moving forward?

The number one KPI for us is that the game is fun and enjoyable for the players for a long period of time, if you get that right, good things will follow.

Our game designers use in-game ads as one tool in the designer toolbox which they can utilise to surprise and delight the players - not primarily think of them as a monetisation mechanic. So it’s all about retention in the end, and in-game ads can actually be used to increase that.

Nowadays we see monetisation more as a holistic exercise and not as a binary or separate choice of ads or IAP monetisation. They complement each other and can give the player multiple ways to enjoy the content. I think we have learned by now that some players actually want the best of both worlds. So yes, all our games have ads.

Our Rethinking In-Game Advertising Month is brought to you in association with AdInMo

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PocketGamer.biz regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.

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