Curse of the click and the future of in-game advertising

Mar 11, 2021 | Campaigns, Insights

Kristan Rivers, CEO of AdInMo, explores how the ‘Curse of the Click’ is holding back the creative potential of in-game advertising as a brand advertising channel. 

Back in the day the phrase “nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM” was a symbol of a brand based on service reputation and purchase decisions based on a safe bet. But what about the solutions that were better tailored to your business? Solutions you’d never discover if you didn’t innovate?

Sadly, when it comes to mobile advertising the ‘IBM effect’ is still alive and kicking in the guise of the ad industry’s obsession with how digital advertising efficacy is measured – the Click-Through Rate (CTR).

Before digital, traditional media measurement was generalistic at best. But then the click arrived and marketers never looked back. However, the fixation with a single metric doesn’t take stock of the fact that clicks don’t guarantee conversions, clicks don’t ensure a positive brand experience and most importantly, consumers find most performance ads intrusive and annoying.

The industry does recognise the need for change. Last month, saw the 3rd anniversary of the IAB UK’s ‘Don’t be a #Clickhead’ campaign to promote it’s` Anti-Click-Through Rate Day. The campaign urges marketers to move-beyond the instant gratification that click-through rates provide and join together in the collective pursuit of alternative solutions.



Digital advertising has changed beyond recognition since the birth of the click. Today, three-quarters of all digital ad spend is on mobile. And one channel that’s catching fire right now is in-game advertising.

A third of the world’s population frequently play mobile games which makes its reach when it comes to targeting high-value Millennial and Gen-Z audiences very attractive. But the true potential of games as a creative brand advertising channel is yet to be unlocked because the curse of the click still prevails.

This is because the vast majority of in-game inventory is either performance or direct response – asking players to watch a video, click a banner and go do something else. For game developers, the existing ad experience is incredibly intrusive. While ad-funded models for free-to-play or freemium games work well from a monetization perspective, it also means a player clicks that ad and leaves the game. Probably to download a competitors game.

This limits quality inventory and precludes brand engagement opportunities. I mean, you’re not going to sell a Ford Mustang through a banner ad, are you?


New Pathways

According to a survey carried out by 46% of developers cite in-game advertising as a key opportunity for 2021. This is where click-free ads are seamlessly integrated into the actual gameplay, rather than traditional in-game formats such as interstitials or banners that interrupt the player experience. The study says over a quarter of developers are planning to trial InGamePlay brand advertising in the first half of this year.

There are infinite creative possibilities yet to be untapped and with brand advertising in mobile games.

Mobile games offer access to diverse player audiences via a broad range of genres. Right now the sector is seeing huge growth in hyper-casual, which accounts for 78% of all new game downloads, as well as new formats such as esports and AR. Immersive ads offer huge flexibility and opportunity for advertisers to create authentic brand experiences at the moment when audiences are already positively engaged.

However, there’s little room for creativity and expression if digital marketers only want to bang the broken record of performance marketing, where clicks equate to success.


New Metrics Required

Brand effectiveness metrics such as recall and awareness, eventually purchase intent, is how brand uplift needs to be measured for in-game advertising.

Apple’s forthcoming IDFA ban which will force a reset not just on ad targeting but also on how advertising efficacy is measured.

There’s the possibility that in the next twelve months the industry could make real inroads into addressing many of the challenges that have prevented in-game advertising from attracting even more ad dollars.

So don’t be stymied by the IBM effect.


This article was first published by Netimperative on March 3rd 2021.


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