Augmented reality continues to be a hot trend in the gaming and general tech spaces, particularly ever since location-based hit Pokemon Go landed on smartphones two years ago.
Things are getting more exciting with the launches of Ludia’s Jurassic World Alive, Next Games’ The Walking Dead: Our World and Niantic’s upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
All these games are free and make their money from in-app purchases.
But there’s another hot industry trend that’s yet to really meet AR gaming: advertising. In-game ads are becoming more lucrative and companies like publisher Voodoo are building entire businesses on the model.
Stockholm-based company Adverty thinks there’s an opportunity for ads in AR games and apps, and has created its own augmented reality advertising platform.
Launched in May, Adverty’s platform is free to use and available to developers around the world. It comes in the form of a lightweight SDK that Unity devs can integrate what it claims are non-intrusive ads into their app (Unreal Engine support is coming in 2019).
Ad units can be dragged and dropped easily into the experience, and once an ad has been served, Adverty pays a monthly revenue share to the publisher.
The ad platform works by displaying ads in on the virtual layer of the real world. Much like you’ll see various posters and billboards in real life, Adverty is bringing that model to AR.
Adverty used in Bica Studios' PuzzlAR
”AR advertising is a new addition to mobile advertising and several ad tech companies and social platforms such as Snapchat are now offering this new format,” says Adverty CEO Niklas Bakos.
“Most services out there are built for traditional (non-AR) apps (or mobile web sites) and initiate the AR-ad from the in-app menus (before or after gameplay), which require the end user to allow access to the camera before loading the ad.
“The Adverty AR platform on the other hand is built for AR games and apps and allows for a seamless coexistence of AR ads within the actual AR experience.”
A key concern with ads in the AR space is just how intrusive they’ll be and whether they’ll take users out of the experience or activate accidentally.
Bakos says Adverty has already planned for this. One option open to developers is setting whether the ad units are clickable or not.
“Clickable ads allow for rewarded videos with app-installs to be added to the ad experience once an ad unit is interacted with, which ideally could increase the eCPM and ad revenue for the publisher,” says Bakos.
“Developers are also given full freedom to setup how ads are activated. For instance they could allow a finger tap to initiate an ad but any in-game activities such as shooting an arrow on the ad wouldn't allow players to trigger it, or vice versa.
“The non-clickable ad units only display brand advertising campaigns and are very useful in scenarios where ad intrusion would kill the experience, such as in real-time multiplayer games or endless runners.”
You can see an example of the ad in action in the video below, which features Bica Studios’ PuzzlAR and the inclusion of ads from Adverty’s platform.
Non-clickable ads offer a new option for advertisers in mobile gaming, that of brand awareness. Many major brands often advertise all year round through various means and formats, but typically in-game ads are a distinct call out requiring an action.
“A shift is currently happening in the industry and more brands are looking to enter mobile apps with brand awareness campaigns,” says Bakos.
“Ideally what this means is users will see non-clickable banners, interstitials and videos, but for the advertiser nothing is more important than the brand safety, how, when and where ads are being displayed. As our platform serves ads within the experience and not from a menu, we're allowing advertisers to target their campaigns contextually, adding an extra dimension to how they reach their audiences.
“Just picking an app category isn't always enough for the brand safety, as for example a casual puzzle game could display anything from dark futuristic environments to cozy, light and colourful settings.”
One of the biggest issues in mobile advertising is that of ad fraud. According to a Business Insider study, ad fraud could cost the digital advertising industry as much as $60 billion in 2020.
Bakos says that traditional advertising platforms on the web and in apps are serving ads as an overlay to the experience, so trying to get a handle on what’s really happening within the publisher’s inventory is “extremely hard”. This opens the opportunity for thousands of ways to create fraudulent traffic, he says.
“As the Adverty platform is integrated inside the app or game experience, we're watching what exactly is being rendered on screen and can therefore determine anomalies in how ads are setup and displayed to the user,” says Bakos.
Further developments are set to arrive on Adverty over the next year. In 2019, Bakos says it will add three-dimensional advertising and branded interactive scenes as an addition to how advertising is defined today with two-dimensional banners and videos.
“AR and VR as entertainment platforms are the first media introduced to mankind that finally will allow brands to advertise in true 3D,” states Bakos.
“For developers this makes the ad experience even more seamless and fit for what they created in the first place.”