In-Game Advertising

The Ad Industry Adapts to a Privacy-First World with In-Game Blended Ads

February 15, 2023
5 Minutes

While the new decade was reeling with multiple global phenomena, the rise of a digital-first world also paved the way for privacy concerns across the globe. With a large portion of daily life spent online, be it for work or leisure, users are now anxious about their online privacy. One of the most vocal groups is gamers, especially those playing on mobile. 

Malvertising has become a serious threat, where users are subjected to malicious codes within digital ads, which then affect their devices and tap into their personal files. Moreover, mobile gaming ads are also riddled with other problems, including fake ads, intrusiveness, and an overall unpleasant experience with most ad formats. The mobile gaming ads industry has taken huge strides in the past 2 years. However, the gigantic growth has brought forth such apprehensions as well.

Therefore, it is now critical for advertisers to ensure that they provide a favorable ad experience to their players without intruding on their privacy. In this privacy-first world, mobile gaming publishers and advertisers are on a leash together. This is where another ad format is taking over and is paving the way for a secure and pleasant ad experience for gamers.

The Changing Landscape Of Advertisements

In April 2021, Apple released iOS 14.5, which would change the advertising game in the near future. Apart from multiple other changes, the new OS version also brought along a privacy framework called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). With the new update, in all Apple devices that are running the then latest version, and going forward, all new versions, app publishers will need to ask for user permission to track certain metrics and access device identifiers, most prominently the Apple Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

IDFA was designed to provide advertisers and app owners the opportunity to anonymously identify a mobile device and start collecting usage information for extensive targeting while advertising. Facebook was, unsurprisingly, forecasted as the most hit platform with Apple’s new changes. Many experts predicted that the new change would cost Facebook roughly $12 billion in ad revenue. While the final figures may be different, Facebook has suffered significantly in terms of its share price, and analysts are predicting we will witness Facebook’s ad revenue drop for the first time (Source: Forbes).

Roughly 14 months before this, Google announced that it will phase out third-party cookies in Google Chrome by 2022. The process, however, was delayed to 2023 and is now set for 2024. Google has said that they want advertisers to adjust their ad strategies to be less intrusive, giving them additional time (Source: Bloomberg)

With tech leaders embracing the less intrusive ad approach, the gaming industry will also be impacted by these measures. A chunk of in-game ads depend on targeting the device and user behavior, which will completely change how advertisers approach in-game ads. In all this hubbub, in-game blended ads have become the go-to ad strategy for advertisers looking to increase viewability and game publishers looking to make the ad experience better for their players.

But what are in-game blended ads exactly, and how can top gaming publishers make more money with them?

What Are In-Game Blended Ads

Apart from privacy concerns, traditional gaming ads are also considered intrusive by a huge chunk of gamers. Many in-game ad formats, such as interstitial and video ads, are often detested by gamers, especially if they are placed at unnatural transitional points, hampering the gaming experience.

The concerns around privacy and intrusiveness with gaming ads have paved the way for the rise of in-game blended ads. Unlike traditional ads, which are displayed over the gaming interface, in-game blended ads are incorporated into the gaming environment itself. Since these ads are present inside the gaming environment, they are not obstructing the player from playing the game even when they encounter the ad.

These blended ads bring forth advantages for both publishers and advertisers. While publishers can scale their revenues through highly relevant ad partnerships, advertisers and brands can reach their target gaming audience without disrupting their gaming experience. Another reason why brands often pay a premium for in-game blended ads is the lack of user-generated content inside the game, ensuring brand safety.

How Can Publishers And Advertisers Leverage In-Game Blended Ads

While the adoption of in-game blended ads is in full swing, it is by no means a new concept. Going as far back as 1983, players would serve Budweiser beer to bar patrons in the game ‘Tapper.’ A few years later, we witnessed the Ford Simulator, which was designed to promote the 1988 Ford line of automobiles.

Leverage In-Game Blended Ads
Source: Play DOSGames

Since then, we have seen extensive usage of ads in-game, and placement opportunities have only increased. Publishers can now opt for a variety of ad placements inside the game, enabling advertisers to reach the audience seamlessly. These ads often replicate real-life ad experiences, easing the viewers and making these ads feel appropriate and non-intrusive. 

Here are ways publishers and brands can leverage in-game blended ads.

Natural Displays

Ever wandered across a huge billboard or a wall mural advertisement in your neighborhood? Similar to real life, in-game ads can be blended onto natural displays inside a game. Pokemon Go, the superhit augmented reality game, incorporated in-game advertising that impersonated real-life locations. While searching for their favorite Pokemon, players witnessed the popular Japanese discount store ‘Don Quijote’ in their game. The Drum Magazine was also seen in the Football Manager 2019. Advertisers can use these natural displays inside games to make the ad placement as seamless as possible without disrupting the natural flow of the play.

Natural Displays ads
Source: TechSpot

Promotional In-Game Content

In-game items have been part of games for a long time. But these items are now enabling brands to drive brand viewability and recognition. For example, players in NBA 2K22 can play their way to upgrade their apparel and footwear. The game features a long list of brands that showcase their items in-game, most prominently Nike and Drake's OVO. Brands such as Union, Just Don, 2HR Set, and Visitor have also been a part of the game since NBA 2K20. Similarly, players can consume Monster Energy in Death Stranding to achieve a temporary stamina boost of 10%.

Promotional In-Game Content
Source: VG247

Game Sponsorships

While brands have been sponsoring in-game items and product placements, we have also seen complete brand-based game sponsorships or level sponsorships to maximize their reach. This is not a new concept and has been around for decades. In the 1990s, for example, Cool Spot and Spot Goes To Hollywood featured the red spot on the 7Up logo as the main character. The spot flew through the game on a 7Up bottle and completed the missions. Also, who can forget the renowned LEGO Star Wars game series, the most recent of which is LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga? Such games are often developed by the brand itself to either disseminate the launch of a new product or as a part of an all-out marketing campaign.

LEGO Star Wars game series
Source: Playstation

The Growth Of Blended Ads And The Future Of Gaming

With in-game blended ads, publishers can seamlessly place ad units in places that mimic real-life advertising. For example, players can see sideline ads in FIFA 22 similar to the FIFA World Cup, enriching the gaming experience. Another example may be a racing game, which can replicate the ads of traditional F1 races, increasing familiarity, viewability, and brand recognition.

Blended Ads And The Future Of Gaming

But that’s not all! As explained above, in-game blended ads move away from traditional advertising and can take the form of the game itself. With these features, the ad format provides an extremely lucrative opportunity for game publishers. While these ads are already being leveraged by major gaming brands around the world, the majority of the market is still untapped.

As privacy takes the stage in gaming, in-game blended ads are the ideal solution for both advertisers and publishers. Without third-party data to rely on, we might witness a paradigm shift toward blended ads in the near future. And why shouldn’t we? When the players are getting smarter and thinking about privacy, everyone else needs to do the same as well. Therefore, for game publishers, it might be the right time to drive adoption early to leverage the preliminary market rather than arriving late to the party.

iion enables publishers to build gamer-focused ad strategies and utilize in-game blended ads to provide a real-world ad experience in the game. Acting as a bridge, iion connects premium publishers looking to scale their revenue with seamless ad experiences and exclusive brands trying to tap the gaming audience effectively. With iion, brands can seamlessly reach their target audience throughout the gamer journey, while publishers can monetize their gaming applications inside and outside the game while enhancing the game experience using non-disruptive formats.

Want to know how you can scale your revenue with premium advertisers and in-game blended advertising? Connect With Us Today!


Do advertisers track players even when they are in-game?

Yes! Since ads rely on user engagement, advertisers track key metrics such as engagement, reach, clicks and conversions. With these metrics tracked, advertisers can effectively provide relevant ads.

What is malvertising?

Malvertising, also known as malicious advertising, is a cyberattack technique in which malicious actors inject hostile code inside digital ads. These ads are often served through legitimate ad networks, which is why it is difficult to detect by both advertisers and publishers.

What are in-game blended ads?

In-game blended ads, as the name suggests, are blended right into the gaming environment rather than being displayed above the gaming interface. These ads are highly immersive and often drive higher brand recognition.

How can publishers deploy in-game blended ads?

Publishers can utilize a variety of in-game ad units to provide blended ads. These include sponsored games, brand-focused in-game items, or natural displays such as billboards, shops or other locations that mimic real life.

Why should game publishers deploy in-game blended ads?

Game publishers should deploy in-game blended ads to provide a favorable ad experience to their users. Moreover, these ads drive higher viewability and engagement numbers than many traditional ad formats, scaling revenues for publishers. Moreover, using less intrusive formats also increases the game’s value and nurtures a loyal player base.

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