Video and image-based ads have long dominated as the preferred choice for in-game advertisements. However, the rise of audio as a medium has allowed for audio-based in-game ads to be a viable alternative.
AudioMob, an audio in-game ad delivery platform, is bridging the gap between brands and game developers by enabling the latter to host and run in-game audio ads developed by the former. The London, UK startup has recently entered in a partnership with Socialpoint, a game development studio (acquired by Take Two, which owns the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise and also purchased Zynga for $12.7B). Christian Facey and Wilfrid Obeng detail the impact of this collaboration for AudioMob and the in-game advertising space as a whole.
Frederick Daso: Before this renaissance with in-game audio advertisements, there must have been great skepticism at the effectiveness of audio as an alternative format to video or image-based in-game ads. Outside of AudioMob’s innovations in the space, what other recent technological or business trends have developed to lead more game publishers and advertisers to experiment with audio-based ads?
Christian Facey and Wilfrid Obeng: There used to be skepticism around the audio levels and if users had the volume on when they were playing mobile games. AudioMob’s technology to analyze the true audio state of a mobile phone, not just the game, allowed us to test several things and discover patterns in user behavior.
We see a significant increase in ad recall, purchase intent, and brand consideration. As discussed in our In-game audio ad mobile engagement whitepaper, we’re seeing that users in every instance prefer not having their gameplay blocked when receiving an advert. This has been incredibly attractive to brands looking to capitalize on the mobile gaming sector.
There are now three billion mobile gamers, and this audience is growing annually in double digits. More users within each major demographic segment game more often than not; this includes 65+ and over. This is also attractive to brands looking to enter mobile gaming in a price-efficient way. Mobile gaming ads are usually very expensive performance ads with a $40-$80 CPM. This price range is too high for brand advertisers. In-game audio ads are considered a great entry point. The music industry, which generally is more sensitive to CPM price, was an early adopter of our format. Now, brands within every major advertising vertical use us, from Pampers and Microsoft Xbox to Intel, Jeep and even health clinics!
Developers have also been aggressively looking for new forms of monetization that improve the player experience and don’t damage player retention. Branding ads, which don’t promote installing other games, are becoming more attractive to game studios. This is especially apparent because of Apple’s IDFA changes last year and general player concerns around data privacy. This has encouraged developers to implement privacy-compliant networks such as AudioMob, which uses contextual data to target users. Combined with AudioMob’s non-intrusive delivery method, it makes a very compelling case for the developers.
Daso: Now with audio-based in-game ads having their moment in the sun, Socialpoint found an opportune time to partner with Audiomob to further its own aims of creating “a smooth experience between gameplay and advertising.” How has AudioMob curated a diverse advertiser base that provides a studio-like Socialpoint the ability to show their “users’ brand campaigns rather than ads of other games?”
Facey and Obeng: AudioMob is the first company to integrate non-intrusive audio ads within mobile games. To achieve this, we had to figure out how to connect the audio ad programmatic ecosystem to the mobile gaming ecosystem by talking to many brands and technology partners over many years. What is important for developers to realize is audio advertisers are brands, not user acquisition advertisers. An audio advertiser cares about listen-through rates rather than installs. The key thing for AudioMob to figure out was how to ensure the advertiser categorically knows that their ad was truly heard.
AudioMob is the first company to create a method of buying audio ads in-game and the only company globally to verify that an audio ad can be heard. This creates a compelling case for advertisers to use our platform. Furthermore, gaming is now a mass marketing channel with extreme scale, and a variety of world-leading brands such as Pampers, Disney, Samsung, etc., quickly adopted the platform. Another critically important to advertisers is the quality of games our network provides. AudioMob manually selects premium gaming inventory for our advertisers, and we also have designed an algorithm that helps us select the very best inventory. Brands usually see a 1000% increase in click-through engagement on our platform. For the developer, advertiser quality is a frequent question from game developers looking to adopt our platform, and this was super important to SocialPoints parent company TakeTwo. These are some of the reasons why AudioMob has been able to scale as quickly as we had since our launch in January 2020.
Daso: How much have game developers increased their revenues after adopting audio-based in-game ads? Is there any impact on user retention with these new types of ads?
Facey and Obeng: Game developers see a 600% increase in their banner CPMs when audio ads are used. Suppose the developer doesn’t use banners and measures by general ARPDAU rather than segmented ARPDAU ( per ad format). In that case, they can expect a 5% increase when using our technology, integrating using our thoroughly researched best practices. When AudioMob’s best practices are used, we either see no retention change or a slight increase of up to 0.45%. The retention results correlate with our initial whitepaper research and numerous groundbreaking case studies.
Daso: In our discussion, you mentioned that a brand like Curry’s was able “to secure a 3650% relative average CTR uplift in a campaign conceived to drive Xbox Series S purchases.” Is this a typical or outlier result for brands that advertise via in-game audio ads?
Facey and Obeng: This is typical of brands that advertise on our platform. While the percentages sound unbelievable, we have enough studies conducted and campaigns executed that we are confident in-game audio will be the next major advertising medium. It’s a key reason why our Series A was so successful. AudioMob has designed an audio intent algorithm that targets users based on how they listen to an ad while playing a game. For instance, if you as a gamer were to click out of a mobile game you were engaged in to find out about an ad you just heard, it must be a true sign of intent. Why? Because you would have continued playing the game instead and ignored, closed, or muted the ad! Based on the numerous audio signals we analyze, this kind of intent has enabled us to identify truly engaged users across thousands of games via our advertising platform.
Daso: How should skeptical brands reassess their current view of audio as a viable advertising medium, given the strong results AudioMob and other innovators in the space have shown through the increased reach of potential customers and users?
Facey and Obeng: In-game audio advertising is a mass marketing channel within the gaming space that enables brands to reach gamers and a mass audience across every demographic. Conceptually, this is compared to radio advertising. However, the amount of contextual data you can use to target the right person is exceptional. Rather than thinking about AudioMob as an audio channel, brands need to think about in-game audio as a method to reach a mass audience. To get the right ad to the right audience at the right time, within the correct game! The mechanism happens to be audio to allow you to do this non-intrusively. Large brand advertisers see audio ads as a less influential medium because you cannot see the offering as a video ad.
However, this isn’t the case at all! For example, I’m sure you can recall the sonic identity of certain ads, such as the McDonald’s theme tune. It’s about how and where you place the ad. It’s the execution that counts. What is key is that the delivery of general ads, such as video ads, are intrusive, the negative prior event to watching the ad; being blocked by a video disrupting gameplay. Brands can now advertise in key moments. Using AudioMob, brands can now deliver their messages without intruding on their audience’s gameplay and can even deliver their messages to players in a time of need. For instance, when the player needs a power-up or help in the game via a reward for listening to an ad. This is a powerful method used to deliver the best ad experiences for their users.
Daso: Beyond increasing revenue, what other goals does AudioMob hope to accomplish or prove through enabling in-game audio ads in Socialpoint’s Word Life game?
Facey and Obeng: If I were to ask readers if they can think of a single person within their network that likes video ads, most people would say no! It is a common issue. AudioMob has figured out how to make a player’s ad experience non-intrusive while being significantly profitable for the developer, providing incremental revenue and not damaging the developer’s other monetization methods. Advertisers also have a price-efficient entry point into the mobile gaming ecosystem. Now that we have enough research and evidence that all parties benefit from AudioMob’s technology, we aim to scale across our portfolio of interested top 100 mobile game publishers. We believe this partnership will be a landmark partnership that will define the in-game audio ad industry for years to come.