Augmented reality is set to become more mainstream thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore development platforms, marking the birth of a new marketing channel. And as with all shiny new objects, marketers are keen to start leveraging AR.

Today IronSource — the mobile monetization and marketing company —  announced the launch of what the company says is the world’s first AR ads for games.

The ads are designed and produced entirely in-house by IronSource’s Playworks Studio, a division of the company that is dedicated to using game design to create ads that both engage the audience and convert.

IronSource is working with advertisers, producing the creative before using its platform to deliver the content at scale.

“At this point, developers aren’t able to create AR ads on our platform themselves,” Dan Greenberg, chief design officer at IronSource, told me. “From a creative perspective, the ads are created in-house with 3D assets we get from our advertiser clients. The in-house team includes both graphic designers and animators, along with programmers, game designers, and data scientists.”

Once developed, the ad is pushed out to the network. IronSource’s mobile video SDK is one of the largest in the industry, with over 80,000 integrations.

“From a delivery perspective, we are in a unique position to be the first to offer AR ads at significant scale, since we’re able to deploy them across our substantial in-app traffic through the IronSource SDK,” Greenberg said.

I’ve seen the ads in action. When the phone is held up, characters from a game appear in a style not dissimilar to Pokemon GO. The consumer throws fireballs at these characters and is prompted to install the game after playing the mini-game in AR. It certainly makes for a much more immersive ad experience.

“Successful game advertising today is not about having a designer create a banner ad, but about combining data, creativity and cutting-edge technology to create user experiences that are as engaging as the games themselves,” Greenberg said. “AR is a prime example of this, requiring a diverse set of skills for their production.”

Of course, if done wrong, AR ads could be a nightmare for consumers. And since AR will be mainly smartphone-driven for the next few years yet, how does Greenberg see AR advertising play out, and what sort of regulations will we need to ensure fair advertising in AR?

“I think the essential nature of AR advertising will protect it from being intrusive or disruptive the way a lot of traditional advertising has become,” Greenberg said. “Especially when looked at in the context of smartphone-driven AR, the experience is both opt-in (because users have to allow access to the camera) and non-disruptive, since users are essentially interacting with an enriched, upgraded version of their real surroundings. As opposed to taking you into a different experience from the one you’re in, an AR ad enriches the experience you’re already having.”

That opt-in is key to the future of AR ads.

“I see AR as a natural evolution of mobile advertising from passive formats to interactive, opt-in experiences,” Greenberg said. “From rewarded videos, to playables, to AR — these are all ads which are respectful of a user’s attention, provide a clear value exchange, and ultimately offer a genuinely enjoyable experience. While AR advertising has clear applications across a variety of verticals — like retail, for example — we expect game advertisers to be early-adopters of cutting-edge ad formats that take advantage of technologies like AR.”

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