Advrty wants to offer a new avenue of monetization for virtual reality developers, which doesn’t involve full field-of-view pop-up ads. Instead, it’s a platform aimed toward designing and incorporating nonintrusive product placement. It’s in beta.
“Initially, think billboards, posters and product placements using images or video,” said CEO and cofounder Niklas Bakos in an email. “It could be a label on a cup. To get ad relevancy, we’ve created a patent-pending context-based system that will allow for proper targeting in a case where we wouldn’t allow a billboard creative to end up on a soda can label, or an ad for the iPhone X to [show] in a game that is all about the medieval era, for example.”
And this is the most important thing, Bakos says: not breaking immersion. The Advrty platform intends to bring users to the ads instead of the other way around. Bakos says that their technology will be able to track where users are looking and what they’re interacting with. This means that it can place ads in “high-traffic” areas in the environment.
So far, Advrty has run a campaign with The Coca-Cola Company, placing ads in the game Merry Snowballs from Hatrabbit Entertainment. The core of its platform is based on the ability to accurately track user views and interactions.
“When brands and agencies are getting more comfortable and understand this new media in a better way, there will be opportunities to introduce amazing new ad units based on 360 video, three-dimensional objects and even fully animated 3D ad-scenarios that dynamically coexist with the customer using machine learning and AI,” said Bakos.
Advrty is not the only company who’s taking the opportunity to explore this space. The ad-tech startup Immersv raised $10.5 million last month to serve ads in virtual reality and 360-degree videos and games, and Google is experimenting with VR ads in its Area 120 workshop.
VR has been struggling to appeal to consumers, and companies are working on solutions to help players discover more content. HTC’s Viveport, for instance, is trying to lure folks in with a subscription service that offers a library of 150 apps and games. A few breakout hits have been popular enough to pass the million-dollar milestone, such as Owlchemy Labs’s Job Simulator and Schell Games’s I Expect You to Die. However, these success stories are still not the norm.
This may change soon with the introduction of triple-A titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4 VR. But in the meantime, the ecosystem still feels fairly sparse both on the content side as well as the business side for VR developers who are trying to sustain their projects. Advrty is hoping to offer a solution, offering up its platform as a plug-in for the popular game engine Unity. It’s also working on making it compatible with Unreal Engine.
Bakos says that Advrty is also currently talking to a few developers about designing ads that can blend seamlessly into a virtual environment and aren’t off-putting to users. Design is just part of the equation, though; Bakos says that they’re also beholden to the platforms. He compares it to the way mobile games developed into a freemium model based on the introduction of in-app purchases. Bakos says that the challenge with VR platforms is that the infrastructure doesn’t yet exist for things like figuring out how to pay for clicks or installs, which are stats that are needed to track how effective the ads are.
Though Advrty is focused on VR, Bakos says that it’s also working on ads for augmented reality. However, AR ads come with their own set of challenges.
“For VR, we let developers easily drag, drop and modify programmatic ads in their games or apps,” said Bakos. “For AR, this becomes much more difficult though as the world you’re in is no longer a pre-defined virtual one, but rather your own. In order to properly place ads in AR, we need to understand the geometry of the real world and what happens when the customers starts walking, running or moving their heads around for example.”