NBCU Adds In-Game Ads To Its Sales Roster Through Partnership With Anzu

NBCU Anzu in game ads partnership

In-game ads represent a tantalizing untapped revenue source. While gamers are playing, it’s possible to insert ads native to their experience. But infrastructure for serving these ads at scale and with accountability has lagged behind advertisers’ interest in capturing the attention of gamers.

A new partnership between in-game ad tech company Anzu and NBCUniversal aims to build out the infrastructure for serving in-game ads using programmatic tech by solidifying the connection between brands on the demand side and game developers on the sell side.

NBCU will serve as Anzu’s third-party sales partner for the US and UK, combining NBCU’s brand reach with Anzu’s in-game ad inventory.

“Our advantage is technology and supply. And their advantage is demand,” said Anzu co-founder and CEO Itamar Benedy.

NBCU will also be investing in Anzu’s business as part of its second round of investment fundraising. Its second round of funding will exceed the $17 million in funding Anzu has raised so far, according to Benedy.

Anzu is also interested in exploring knowledge-sharing opportunities with NBCU’s owner Comcast and its in-house ad tech experts, Benedy said.

Direct developer input

With billions of gamers worldwide, the ad impressions are there for the taking. Because gamers tend to spend hours at a time playing their favorite games or watching other gamers play them on streaming video, the best way to reach them is through in-game ads.

Game developers work with Anzu to program ads into their existing game titles. Together, they determine the best ad placements to maximize impressions with minimal impact on the gameplay experience. Developers can build programmatic pipes into their virtual worlds with Anzu’s SDK. Ads can be served programmatically or via direct insertion order.

When it comes to in-game ads, some brands are wary of ad placements that interrupt the gaming experience, like pre-roll and mid-roll video ads or full-screen display formats. But Anzu focuses on non-intrusive, non-interruptive formats that are native to gameplay.

“We love that the game publisher is involved as the expert in that game and choosing where they think the ads should go to be complementary to the flow of the game,” said NBCU’s EVP of advanced advertising and partnerships Joe Cady.

Advertising at scale

Besides the variety of ad formats it can place in games, Anzu has a potential for huge scale, according to NBCU’s Cady.

“[Anzu’s inventory runs] across game titles, across game publishers, across genres, across devices and platforms, across geographies and across formats, including display, video and custom interactive,” Cady said. “And we’ve got privacy-compliant targeting capabilities, all in a brand-safe environment.”

Anzu has built ad infrastructure in games on mobile, PC, consoles and in the metaverse; titles include Roblox, Ubisoft’s Trackmania and Saber Interactive’s Dakar Desert Rally. The company is also a licensed in-game advertising partner for Microsoft’s Xbox, and its solutions are compatible with Unreal Engine, one of the most widely used game-development engines.

NBCU also sees opportunity for reaching audiences on gamer-focused streaming platforms like Twitch. Though NBCU is “very excited” by the possibility of reaching additional audiences by placing ads in games that are popular with streamers, that aspect of the partnership is still in its earliest stages of development, according to Cady.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunity ahead of us just with core in-game advertising,” he said.

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