In Game Advertising Tips to Keep Players from Getting Pissed

In Game Advertising

In game advertising can be a great source of revenue for indie developers. It can also be a great annoyance to players. That’s because in game advertising is often executed poorly. Stuffing ads into games without regard for game play or audience, is a sure-fire way to lose players. However, if planned correctly, in game advertising can generate revenue without driving players away.

5 In Game Advertising Tips to Keep Players

  1. Minimize Game Play Interruption
    No one likes ads in games. But, we tolerate them…until they become annoying. As you plan your in game advertising, keep this in mind. Limit the amount of ads you show, the duration they’re on screen and keep them to natural pauses in game play (loading screens, between levels).
  2. Integrate Ads with UI and Game Play
    Accidentally clicking on an ad because it was carelessly placed is frustrating. If you’re showing ads, don’t make them an afterthought. Build ad placement into your UI. Or, take it a step further and build placement into your game play (e.g., use characters to announce video ads, point at banners, etc.). The more integrated your ads are, the less annoying they’ll be. You might even get intentional clicks :)

    In game advertising on Angry Birds
    Grrrrrr! These ads piss me off every time I play. How am I supposed to beat this level if I can’t see what’s beyond that stupid ad? Curse you Angry Birds!

  3. Target Ads to Your Audience
    If you follow my blog, you understand the importance of knowing your audience (demographically and behaviorally). Use this information to select what ads to show. E.g., if you’re audience is comprised of 35-year-old men, don’t show ads for makeup. The more targeted the ads, the more people will pay attention.
  4. Prescreen What You’re Advertising
    Showing a bunch of crapy ads is a great way to ruin your game. Pixelated, fuzzy or poorly designed ads destroy a gaming experience. Fortunately, this scenario is avoidable by prescreening potential ads and selecting the best to show in game.
  5. Measure Impact on Players
    The ONLY way to maximize income and minimize unengagement is understanding how ads affect your players (positively or negatively) via data. Before starting any advertising, make sure you’re able to track engagement. At a minimum, measure average session time and new versus returning players.

Feature image above was taken by Angela P.

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Emmy Jonassen is a marketing pro who helps indie developers build adoring fanbases. Marketing people who love buzz words call this "lead generation."

7 Comments on "In Game Advertising Tips to Keep Players from Getting Pissed"

  1. Hi Emmy
    and many thanks for your concise post about advertising in games!

    My empiric study shows that not all the ads are annoying. On the contrary, they can even enhance the gaming experience when well planned and designed. What does annoy are fake ads with brands that don’t even exist. Instead of offering fake advertising, games should create contacts with real brands and monetize on those. Also, there are some games where brands are part of the game play so that the player can interact with the brand. Those can be very cool too.

    Finally, I would add one more point to your check list: the device. The screen size matters. Understand what devices your players use and where they play is crucial successful advertising.

    Keep writing about brands and games! It is great reading and very useful for a still very immature sector. Cheers!

    • Emmy says:

      Thanks for the comment and kind words. You bring up some excellent points.

      I totally agree with you that successful in-game advertising is about good planning and design…and, dare I say…an integrated experience. The more your ads feel like part of the game (i.e., advertising that players can interact with, brands that they care about, etc.), the better.

      Also, love your point about screen size. It’s oh so annoying when you’re playing on an iPad and the ads don’t block any play space, then you go to an iPhone and you can’t play the game because you can’t see around the ad.

  2. Andy says:

    Having not used any ad yet, I would be interested in knowing when/how do developers have an opportunity to prescreen the ads from the network?

    • Emmy says:

      Hi Andy,

      When you set up your in-app advertising SDK, most ad networks will provide you test ad inventory to help. This is so you can preview what the ads look like in your game before you push everything live. The test inventory may or may not be part of the live inventory, however, it will give you a sense of resolution, quality, etc.

      When you are ready to go live, your ad network will require you to set up your ad preferences to control the types of ads that appear. Once you have these preferences in place, you should be able to preview the ads in your inventory. If anything comes up you don’t like, you can fine tune by excluding things like specific destination URLs, ad content, advertisers and more.

      Here’s a documentation example on how to do this for iAd:

      Hope that helps and good luck!

  3. Waqas Nadeem says:

    Hello Emmy!
    Thanks for your precise and interesting post containing some useful and new fact for new users and developers in the market. These points are truly awesome at first. But later on I encountered a fear that would it be safe to upload for iTunes and playStore. Is there any assurity that they would not suspend my app due to the usage of fun-characters in the game which are specifically attracting user towards advertisement.
    please guide me with a fact and source containing reply.

    • Emmy says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Glad you found the post useful!

      Good question. There is definitely a difference between integrating your ads in your game so that they don’t distract from gameplay and creating an experience geared toward ad clicks (the later is something the App Store will not tolerate). If you have fun characters playfully announcing ads, or pointing at them like “here’s an ad,” I think it’s a fun way to turn the annoying into something fun. What the App Store is looking for are apps that con people into clicking by: making the ad not look like an ad, incentivizing a click in any way and so forth. Apps that do any of those things, whether they use characters or not, will be rejected. (So, DON’T have a character pointing at an ad saying, “click this and I’ll give you some in-game currency,” or have a character pointing at an ad and making players think that he’s pointing at some kind of UI, etc.).

      If you would like to read further, here is a link to the App Store’s guidelines on advertising (scroll down to “7. Advertising”):

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