Q&A with Natalia Vasilyeva, VP Marketing at Anzu.io

Natalia Vasilyeva, VP Marketing at Anzu.io has worked in the AdTech industry for nearly a decade. An Anzu team leader since day one, Natalia’s marketing acumen and deep expertise across business domains has propelled Anzu to its current status as the world-leading in-game advertising platform.

A multilingual speaker and writer, she writes extensively about AdTech and in-game advertising and appears frequently at industry events. Prior to Anzu, Natalia served as a project and marketing manager for global company Glispa and the world leader of mobile fitness apps, Sport.com. She has been passionately advocating for Anzu and its ability to change the face of the AdTech industry since day one.

MEDIA 7What inspired you to get into marketing?
NATALIA VASILYEVA
: From a young age, I was always fascinated by what motivated people to make certain decisions. I also had a keen interest in business, and saw over and over again how marketing played a key - perhaps the leading - role in helping transform budding companies to international success stories. As I grew into my career, I noticed that many people view marketing as just another way to sell products. But it's so much more than that--and that’s what I love, the diversity of the field. I see marketing as the starting point of a dialogue between a company and its existing and potential customers. This is a dialogue that can take place across channels, transcending the noise of today’s hyper-connected world. It's amazing to witness how small and calculated moves can change the course of a company for decades to come.

M7: What is the motto of Anzu.io? What does the company stand for?
NV:
We make advertising in games better.
Better for advertisers, who want and need to connect to their audiences in meaningful and non-disruptive ways.
Better for game developers, who want and need to monetize and collaborate across industries without disrupting the user experience.

And, most of all, better for gamers, who can continue to play without interruption, actually benefiting from the enhanced gaming experience that Anzu’s blended in-game ads bring.

We fulfill our mission by bringing real-world brand ads directly into the gameplay.

Our core team at Anzu has been involved in the digital advertising industry for many years. We came together to solve a major problem we all saw: fragmentation. At the same time, we saw the gaming industry advancing at light speed and knew it was time to bring the two worlds together. Now, we’re working to create a new standard in advertising--one that is well-received by audiences and performs at an extremely high level, all while tapping into the massive potential of the 3 billion-strong gaming market. Our mission of making advertising in games better was a natural outgrowth of what both industries needed and the solution we could provide.


"Gaming is now so deeply ingrained in popular culture--the time has truly come for advertising and gaming to meet, collaborate, and grow together!"

M7: In what way is Anzu striving to transform gaming?
NV:
This is an interesting question! We’re not trying to transform gaming itself--gaming is doing amazingly as is. What we are doing is bringing non-disruptive - and even well-received - advertising formats inside video game worlds, including console and esports (for the first time), for the benefit of advertisers, game studios, and gamers alike. The platform is a game-changer (literally!) for advertisers, empowering them with programmatic tools and capabilities that allow them to launch super effective in-game campaigns at scale. At the same time, it enables game developers to dramatically increase their sustainable income through non-invasive advertising. This is truly a win-win for everyone across industries, including the gamers themselves, who won’t be burdened with the cost of maintaining and upgrading the games they know and love, and who will benefit from realistic and personalized ads seamlessly blended into their gaming experience.

M7: What are the major challenges the gaming industry is facing, and how are you overcoming those?
NV:
The inefficiency of existing business models leads to a lack of revenues on the game developers side and dissatisfaction on the gamers side. When game developers lack the funds they need, they’re often forced to turn to gamers to foot the bill through things like premium memberships, in-game purchases, game costs, and sometimes intrusive methods such as lootboxes and popups. In such a dynamic industry, it's always a challenge to keep the right balance between pushing revenues and building genuinely cool products and tribes. Anzu is bringing a new, scalable revenue stream that benefits all the players: game studios, gamers, and the budding in-game advertising industry.


"We are bringing non-disruptive - and even well-received - advertising formats inside video game worlds, including console and esports (for the first time), for the benefit of advertisers, game studios, and gamers alike."

M7: How does Anzu’s cross-platform advertising and monetization solutions help game producers?
NV:
Many game developers traditionally shied away from advertising for a number of justifiable reasons: hardcoded ads, disruptive pop-ups, and a general lack of scalable technology that would suit their needs and keep the user experience intact.

Anzu is helping game producers add a completely new revenue stream, one that won’t disrupt their existing streams and, most importantly, won’t disrupt the gaming experience. Right now, Anzu is being employed as a premium revenue generator for game studios of all shapes and sizes across the globe, including Vivid Games, Axis Games, and Ubisoft.

More and more, brands are interested in reaching the ever-growing gaming audience base. Our cross-platform solution serves as a meeting place between these international brands and the games their audiences are playing. In addition to sustainable revenues, Anzu also allows games to partner with brands that can enhance their visibility and solidify their reputation. One extremely successful recent example of such a partnership was the Travis Scott concert inside the global phenomenon game Fortnite, during which more than 12M players tuned in to witness this epic brand partnership in action. Gaming is now so deeply ingrained in popular culture--the time has truly come for advertising and gaming to meet, collaborate, and grow together!

M7: What marketing channels do you use, and which ones do you see as the most promising given your target customers?
NV:
We’re present on most social media platforms, but the most effective marketing we’ve employed centers around sharing our messages and educating our audiences via thought leadership articles, interviews, conference appearances, collaborations with our partners, and other authentic content initiatives. We find that the best way to reach our audiences is through helpful market and industry analysis and engaging examples of in-game advertising.

M7: What does the platform offer to brand advertisers?
NV:
Now more than ever before, consumers are looking for authentic experiences from brands. The old “buy me” methodologies are just not effective with younger audiences. For that reason, brand awareness campaigns are becoming more popular as they brand affinity and loyalty over a period of time, rather than relying on one-off messages relating to a product’s features or benefits to sell. Another benefit to brand awareness campaigns is that they can be employed across touchpoints, creating an integrated experience. Video gaming, with an audience of 3 billion people worldwide, is clearly becoming one of those key touchpoints.

More people are spending more time inside virtual worlds and brands cannot afford to miss out on this unprecedented opportunity to connect with these engaged users. Anzu’s blended in-game advertising solution seamlessly integrates non-intrusive ads into the gameplay, allowing brands to reach previously undiscovered audience groups in a more immersive way.
As opposed to intrusive ads that interrupt gameplay and offer low brand visibility, blended in-game advertising brings realism to games through advanced product placement.

In addition to creating a completely immersive environment, in-game advertising with Anzu offers advertisers significant benefits that were never before possible due to limitations in technology. These include the ability to launch scalable campaigns programmatically across platforms (mobile, PC, console), to create personalized and even hyper-targeted campaigns (think ads for local restaurants wherever the player is in the world), to utilize existing buying protocols, and, perhaps most importantly, to measure campaign performance by utilizing advanced AdTech tools. These tools include the first-ever in-game ad verification solution in partnership with cybersecurity firm CHEQ, brand lift measurement in partnership with Nielsen Connectivity, and fraud detection in partnership with Forensiq, among others. Additionally, Anzu is the first and only in-game advertising company to bring the highest level of security clearance to in-game advertising with its ISO 270001 security certification. This combination of technologies gives advertisers the confidence they need to leverage the massive gaming audience.

Brand safety is also a major concern for modern-day advertisers. In-game ads are by nature brand-safe because there is no risk of user-generated content. Brands can derive great value for their campaigns by advertising in top-line premium games that carry a reputation as high-value channels.


"More and more, brands are interested in reaching the ever-growing gaming audience base."

M7: How do you see the AR and VR space evolving in future?
NV:
VR and AR have been buzz terms for the past few years. There were a lot of expectations that VR would really take off, and Anzu had also originally anticipated a large chunk of their activities would be VR related.

I still believe VR is the future. It's clear that the entire world is striving to become more connected and more efficient than ever before. The biggest issue remains the tech constraints and comparatively high pricing. I’m sure that COVID-19 has given another boost to VR tech, given that everyone is looking for more ways to connect virtually for business and personal purposes. This place of connection is where I see VR can really shine.

And although VR and AR are grouped together all the time, the technologies and their applications are actually quite different. As a marketer, I see a lot of value in AR as a brand “extension” and another efficient way for advertisers to communicate and give value to their audiences. I love the way IKEA played with AR, offering its customers to “try on” the furniture with their phones. Some clothing brands are also now offering customers the ability to “try on” clothes, shoes, and accessories using AR technology. What a great idea and an efficient way to spend time, money, and resources!

M7: What quote has changed your perspective?
NV:
Well, I can definitely cite marketing or advertising gurus like Ph. Kotler or D. Ogilvy, but it’s more than a quote that changed my perspective.

I’ve been inspired by brands that take marketing further, becoming more than just another name. These innovative brands become widely associated with a set of values or even emotions. A good example is Starbucks! I've been in love with them for a long time and  have often wondered, “why them? Why not any other coffee shop?” When I started to dig in and study their values, corporate culture, business approach, and such, I found answers to all my questions. Indeed, they don’t sell just coffee, they sell emotions :) Such cases of how brands become distinguished have inspired and shaped my vision as a marketer.

ABOUT ANZU.IO

Anzu.io is a leading in-game advertising platform that brings real-world brand ads to video gaming and esports. Backed by BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, WPP and Axel Springer Digital Ventures, Anzu redefines digital advertising through seamless integration of non-intrusive ads into the gameplay. Bringing real-time data and programmatic to the video gaming world, the platform promises native advertising, brand safety and ad viewability. For more information visit www.anzu.io.

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PR Newswire | January 16, 2024

Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming announce their ongoing commitment to the fight against human trafficking with new support tools for victims and those at risk, a youth education program, new trainings to help Team Members combat and prevent human trafficking, and work with new community partners to create a greater impact. "We are deeply committed to the work our community partners provide for those at risk, victims and survivors of human trafficking in the United States and around the world, as we work together to combat human trafficking," said Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming. Over the last several years, Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming have implemented comprehensive protocols to increase awareness of and prevent human trafficking, including training over 27,000 hotel and casino Team Members globally and collaborating with local community partners and advocacy groups. Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming are continuing their work in 2024 with direct support for victims, survivors, and at-risk youth, through the following programs: First Hospitality Brands to Globally Implement Twentyfour-Seven QR Code Created for trafficking survivors, by survivors at Twentyfour-Seven Inc., Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming are the first hospitality brands to implement the Twentyfour-Seven QR code sticker, which provides critical information and support to those who need it, while also deterring traffickers from targeting individuals on the properties. The Twentyfour-Seven QR code sticker, which has resulted in several law enforcement investigations being opened, is being implemented in 44 hotels and casinos across 13 countries. This QR code, which offers information in several different languages, is helping people at risk find a way to understand their situations and the resources available for protection. Expanding Youth Education in Mexico to Prevent Online Luring Building upon the success of the Hard Rock Social Identity Quest (SIQ), an education program that helps teens understand the risks of being lured online, Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming have now expanded the program into classrooms in Mexico following a well-received pilot in Quintana Roo last year that reached 35,000 students. The state's Governor has made the program a mandatory part of the educational curriculum. To effectively reach Mexican youth, the SIQ content was co-developed with experts from PACT- (Protect All Children from Trafficking; formerly ECPAT-USA), ECPAT-Mexico, and EduNetwork Partners. To date, the Hard Rock Social Identity Quest was adopted and taught by 60,000 teachers in 45 U.S. states, reaching 1.2 million high school students, eight percent of the student population. Nearly 2,000 Hard Rock team members also completed the Quest with a young person in their lives. Funding our Community Partners through Change for Change Through its Change for Change program, Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming will raise funds to combat human trafficking during January. Casino guests will have the opportunity to donate change from redeemed gaming vouchers to the Hard Rock Heals Foundation, where 100 percent of the funds will benefit our community partners: PACT, the first U.S. organization to focus on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and Twentyfour-Seven. In 2023, this program raised $100,000 for PACT and Covenant House New York. Youth Employment Program with FLITE Center Florida and Covenant House New York Offered initially in New York City and extended to South Florida last year, Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming's Youth Employment Program aims to help protect youth at risk and support survivors to escape a life of trafficking by helping them forge careers in hospitality. Partners include Covenant House New York City, the largest provider of runaway and homeless youth services in New York City, and FLITE Center, South Florida's leading agency for vulnerable youth and those aging out of foster care. FLITE Center provides support to vulnerable youth with guidance on education, employment, housing health and wellness, and care coordination. Setting a New Standard for Training in the Gaming Industry with the American Gaming Association Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming are driving the advancement of industry practices to combat human trafficking with the American Gaming Association's (AGA) Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force's first-ever free industry-developed training, designed to be the new standard in training for the gaming industry. Working with non-profit and law enforcement partners, the AGA Taskforce created this training based on trauma-informed care and the contributions of trafficking survivors. It will help set a standard for the gaming industry and ensure that guest-facing Team Members know how to recognize signs that trafficking may occur and what steps to take. Learn more about Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming's corporate social responsibility initiatives at www.hardrock.com/social-responsibility. About Hard Rock®: Hard Rock International (HRI) is one of the most globally recognized companies with venues in over 70 countries spanning 309 locations that include owned/licensed or managed Hotels, Casinos, Rock Shops®, Live Performance Venues and Cafes. HRI also launched a joint venture named Hard Rock Digital in 2020, an online sportsbook, retail sportsbook and internet gaming platform. Beginning with an Eric Clapton guitar, Hard Rock owns the world's largest and most valuable collection of authentic music memorabilia at more than 87,000 pieces, which are displayed at its locations around the globe. Hard Rock Hotels has been honored by J.D. Power's North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study as the number one brand in Outstanding Guest Satisfaction for two consecutive years, and among the top Upper Upscale Hotels for four consecutive years. HRI became the first privately-owned gaming company designated a U.S. Best Managed Company by Deloitte Private and The Wall Street Journal in 2021, and has since been honored threefold. Hard Rock was also honored by Forbes among the World's Best Employers, as well as Best Employers for Women, Diversity and New Grads and a Top Large Employer in the Travel & Leisure, Gaming, and Entertainment Industry. In the 2022 Global Gaming Awards, Hard Rock was named Land-Based Operator of the Year for the second time in four years. Hard Rock International currently holds investment grades from primary investment-grade rating agencies: S&P Global Ratings (BBB) and Fitch Ratings (BBB). For more information on Hard Rock International, visit www.hardrock.com or shop.hardrock.com. About Seminole Gaming: Seminole Gaming manages six Florida casino enterprises for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, including Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla. Seminole Gaming has long been recognized for its industry innovations and success. The Seminole Tribe was the first Indian Tribe in North America to open Ultimate Bingo, a high-stakes bingo hall and casino, which debuted in 1979 and became the forerunner of the Indian Gaming movement. Seminole Gaming is currently the only gaming company with investment grade ratings from all three primary investment-grade rating agencies: S&P Global Ratings (BBB), Moody's Corporation (Baa2) and Fitch Ratings (BBB).

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AviaGames Unveils New Brand Identity to Reflect Enhanced Corporate Vision and Accelerated Growth Aspirations

PR Newswire | October 19, 2023

AviaGames, creator of the award-winning "Bingo Tour" app and Pocket7Games social competition platform, today unveiled its new corporate brand identity, Avia (ah-vi-ah). The evolution to the new Avia brand identity underscores the company's growth aspirations and innovative vision helping drive the brand to where it is today and towards the future to potential entertainment applications. Enhancing the social competition gaming experience for players of all skill levels, from casual to hardcore gaming enthusiasts, Avia remains focused on providing quick, fun and rewarding gameplay in an inclusive environment, while always looking for new ways to improve and deliver more games that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.1 "Starting as an idea in a garage just a few years back, it is surreal to think about how far AviaGames has come, and I look forward to what's ahead for Avia, our team and community of players. At Avia, we've always believed that everyone has a competitive spirit, and our goal remains to unleash the joy of competition in everyone," said Vickie Chen, CEO and founder, Avia. "Avia has always been the go-to destination for casual competitive mobile gaming and this new chapter represents our commitment to staying fun, fresh and innovative while providing our players from around the world with the best possible interactive gaming experience." An expression of the company's boldness, enthusiasm, inclusivity, and confidence, the new brand identity comes at an important time for Avia. Positioning itself for the future as the gaming industry experiences explosive growth generating revenues of $187.7 billion in 2023, with mobile gaming accounting for the highest share of revenues, according to Newzoo. Quick to play and quick to win, Avia's gaming titles are designed for people who love competition, but don't desire a steep learning curve. Avia's core mission is focused on ensuring that everyone, employees and players, feels supported in achieving their goals, Avia seeks to build a culture where all players feel safe and have fun, and employees feel comfortable to contribute and act on their ideas. This philosophy of support and inclusion is what enables Avia to continue to enhance its Pocket7Games platform and individual titles to deliver fresh and exciting competitive mobile games that everyone can enjoy.

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