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Why — and how — the IAB is developing new measurement standards for in-game ads

Why — and how — the IAB is developing new measurement standards for in-game ads

To address recent growth in the in-game advertising sector, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is developing new in-game advertising measurement standards to replace its current guidelines. The project is a joint effort between the IAB, the IAB Tech Lab and the Media Rating Council, with considerable input from members of IAB UK and a task force of prominent in-game ad companies, brands and agencies.

Video games and advertising technology were in a vastly different stage of development in 2009, when the IAB released its current set of in-game ad measurement standards. “The 2009 one is completely outdated,” said Lewis Sherlock, svp of programmatic at in-game ad firm Bidstack, one of the 36 companies participating in the IAB’s in-game advertising task force. “It’s basically a complete bolt-on of the regular display standards that doesn’t really take into consideration the 3D environments where the ads are placed.”

The IAB had been keeping an eye on the explosion of gaming activity sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the current in-game initiative was inspired by the MRC’s decision to release a September 2021 interim guidance memo discussing shortcomings in the IAB’s 2009 standards. “It says you can’t use the current viewability measurements for these particular ads,” said Cary Tilds, chief strategy and operations officer of participating in-game ad company Frameplay and co-chair of the IAB’s games and esports committee. “Some of them you can — the ads that are basically around or next to the game, that use current browser-based ad-serving techniques, sure — but when it comes to ads that are intrinsically inside of the game, it basically says the current viewability standards don’t apply.”

“Honestly, the impetus for this was just sheer necessity — it was just so outdated,” said Zoë Soon, vp of the IAB’s Experience Center. “The viewability standard required a 10-second cumulative viewability for it to count as a delivered ad, which is way more than is necessary if you look for the actual viewability standards that we have for other media.”

In addition to its shortcomings with issues of viewability in three-dimensional environments, the 2009 standards were released during the early days of programmatic advertising, largely failing to take into account the impact of programmatic on the in-game space. These days, ads are often delivered programmatically into video games. “There’s been a lot of movement, technology-wise,” Sherlock said.