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IAB's PlayFronts pitches brands to buy gaming ads

Apr 6, 2022
Illustration of a billboard with a video game start screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hundreds of reps from brands and agencies packed into a Times Square venue and tuned in virtually Tuesday for the PlayFronts, IAB's first deal-making marketplace for gaming.

Why it matters: The launch of PlayFronts (aka NewFronts for gaming) is a sign that more advertisers are paying attention to the gaming industry, as engagement continues to grow and the ad tech matures.

  • "We're seeing this convergence of industry readiness, consumer attention and brand openness. It's this perfect storm," Zoe Soon, vice president of the IAB Experience Center, tells Axios.

What's happening: Soon says PlayFronts attracted a spectrum of attendees, from champions in gaming to people who know it's something they should probably check out.

  • Meta was the principal sponsor, and presenting sponsors included gaming studios like Activision Blizzard and Niantic and ad tech companies like Admix and Bidstack.
  • "You need to be present where your customer is, and we all know that's gaming. And it’s growing. My audience grew 20% in Roblox in the past two years," said Ashley Schapiro, American Eagle's vice president of marketing, media, performance and engagement.
  • Anzu, an in-game advertising platform that recently raised $20 million, presented with its new investor NBCUniversal and client American Eagle.
  • "It's less of a question: Is gaming right for me? It's: What type of game?" Anzu CEO Itamar Benedy said.

Yes, but: Advertisers still have concerns over measurement standards and evaluating success.

  • "CPM buying is not going to be something that works because the metrics are different," Admix CEO Sam Huber said onstage. "We're changing the type of economy from the attention economy to the ownership economy."

What's next: IAB didn't provide a timeline but is updating the in-game advertising measurement guidelines it released in 2009 and has left untouched since.

  • "We're bringing gaming up to par with other media," Soon says.
  • IAB is planning another PlayFronts for next year and considering a multi-day event.
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