IAB updates advertising measurement standards for video games

The gaming industry gets a cosign from the industry trade org.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

Meleeing a grunt in front of a Mountain Dew display ad—that’s the future of gaming, potentially.

This week, the IAB announced major updates to its advertising measurement standards for video games, giving an overhaul and boost of credibility to an industry that advertisers are light-years behind.

Rewind: In April, the IAB hosted its first-ever upfronts for the gaming industry, basically affirming that gaming audiences are, well, huge and diverse, not just guys “in the basement,” one media buyer told Marketing Brew at the time.

It’s an antiquated perspective, but one the advertising industry seems to have legitimized, given the fact that the IAB hasn’t updated its in-game ad-measurement standards since 2009(!). That changed this week.

What’s new: Previously, an ad would need to be cumulatively exposed for at least 10 seconds for it to count as an impression within a video game. That’s been cut down drastically to one continuous second for in-game display ads and two continuous seconds for video ad units, so long as at least half of the advertisement’s pixels are in focus. Those are more or less the same guidelines for online display ads.

The new standards also expand upon initial guidelines that say a viewable in-game advertisement must take up at least 1.5% of the screen, be seen from an angle “no greater than 55 degrees,” and can’t be covered or blocked within the gaming environment. Basically, if a player can’t see the ad, it isn’t measurable.

Verified gamer

The new standards understand “the idea that there is a position of the ad relative to the player that constantly changes,” said Cary Tilds, chief strategy and operations officer at Frameplay, a tech company that inserts advertisements in video games. Tilds is co-chair of the IAB’s games and esports committee, and Frameplay helped create the latest standards. So did other companies like Bidstack, Anzu, Google, and Dentsu.

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The IAB is trying to make clear that a video-game environment ain’t the same as a desktop browser—it’s usually 3D, in motion, and without an emphasis on click-through (ya know, because you’re in the middle of playing a video game).

For now, many of the same in-game programmatic advertising players are responsible for placing ads and figuring out whether a gamer actually saw them. Measurement-verification partners are expected to come into the fold later down the road, said Shailley Singh, SVP of product management and global programs at IAB Tech Lab. (Anzu, an in-game advertising platform, announced a measurement verification partnership with Oracle Moat in March).

The IAB’s new standards should be finalized by the fall. To Francesco Petruzzelli, chief technology officer at the in-game advertising firm Bidstack, the standards feel a bit like a minimum. One second isn’t enough time for an impression, he argued, and that it could lead to an oversupply of inventory.

“There’s a lot of smaller players and they need to monetize. And ultimately, one-second intervals gives you more inventory,” he said, emphasizing that Bidstack would consider four seconds as a viewable impression for its clients.

Still, the updates and the IAB’s involvement give the gaming industry a bit more credibility. “Every step we take on the journey towards standardization simplifies the buying process, exponentially,” Petruzzelli said. “The easiest buy’s the best buy.”

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