"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.