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3 June 2021

Yahoo recruits Anzu.io’s in-game ads for its next chapter

If the headline of this piece confused you at all, perhaps you need reminding that Verizon Media is now operating apart from Verizon, and under the Yahoo brand – yes, we know, a very peculiar decision indeed. Shunned by its own parent just one month ago, Yahoo is now set on forging a new path under the wing of Apollo Management.

At the time of announcement, the promise of Yahoo’s ad tech stack was put front and center, so it is only fitting that one of the first post-acquisition announcements sees the company acquire new ground. Yahoo is now offering advertisers in-game inventory through a new partnership with gaming ad platform Anzu.io. Anzu offers banner and video ad slots that are embedded within gameplay, esports tournaments and live streams across mobile, PC and some consoles.

Gaming is often overlooked when it comes to digital ad inventory, but the format certainly has a lot of promise, and is often considered the ‘sleeping giant’ of the industry. There are few instances when a mid-roll advert is not infuriating, regardless of the content, but if a user can roam around a virtual world unobstructed, save for a few dynamic billboards that are embedded in the game’s landscape, they will feel happier when encountering a brand.

Yahoo is clearly aware of this and wants to ensure that it seems to have its finger on the pulse as it enters a new chapter of its life.

The inventory on offer from Anzu includes blended display ads, which are static ads on a road or track side (usually logos), and blended video ads, which are sports pitches and courtside ads including subtle motion or video content. Anzu also offers more bespoke branding and sponsorship packages available, including interactive ads, but we imagine these are more tailored to individual games.

The company holds several exclusive publishing deals with gaming studios such as Vivid Games, Toplitz Productions and Axis Games.

Anzu also offers real-time analytics on KPIs such as brand lift, audience verification and ad viewability, the last of which is supported by a ‘market first’ 3D tracking engine to ensure that viewable in-game ads are paid for. All the KPIs are supported and standardized by a range of measurement and data partners, including Comscore, Nielsen, Cheq, Kantar and Digiseg, while protection against ad fraud is supported by Forensiq and Oracle’s Moat.

“We see an increasing demand for in-game advertising opportunities from clients across our global markets. This partnership with Anzu continues to build out our strong gaming credentials, supplying our ecosystem with even more premium advertising opportunities,” said Verizon Media’s VP of International Sales, Kristiana Carlet.

This partnership comes just one month after Verizon sold its media arm to private equity giant Apollo Management for $5 billion. Considering that this included all the Verizon Media brands that were under or associated with Yahoo and AOL, two worn out internet assets that cost Verizon a total of $10 billion, the sale to Apollo was an embarrassing bargain.

At the time of sale, the press release was stacked with promises about Verizon Media’s new ad capabilities, with CEO Guru Gowrappan promising that Yahoo would be well positioned to grow its full stack digital advertising platform.

April saw a couple of advancements in Yahoo’s ad tech tool shed. Most notably, the Next-Gen Solutions suite was announced, which offers a range of tools for advertisers to purchase and measure audiences without relying on the dying breed of third-party identifiers. Yahoo’s proprietary audience segments, based on first party data, were made available at the start of Q2, with the relevant measurement tools to be made available by Q4 of this year.

These cookieless data capabilities were boosted by a partnership with smart TV OEM Vizio, which gave the Yahoo demand-side platform (DSP) exclusive access to viewership data from over 18 million Vizio smart TVs from 2022. Yahoo was also made Vizio’s preferred supply-side platform (SSP) for programmatic ad monetization.

It will be interesting to see how, if at all, Yahoo is able to use these data capabilities in the gaming world. It is not beyond the realms of technological possibility for contextual data and audience segments from connected TVs, measurement vendors and operators to be synced up with audience data on browsers, mobiles and consoles, but we are still in the infancy of cross-platform advertising capabilities. If Yahoo is able to make this happen, it would be an impressive feat.

It seems suspicious to say the least that this announcement comes within a week of renewed whispers that Netflix is making preliminary moves into the gaming sphere. The fact that Verizon Media is the name used on the press release suggests that this announcement has been in the works for the while, and perhaps the rumors that Netflix is courting some of the top talent in video game industry veterans to steer its new project was too tempting an opportunity to not jump on.

Today, Verizon Media and its affiliates reach nearly 900 million monthly active users worldwide, through customers and brands including HuffPost, Engadget, TechCrunch, as well as the News, Mail, Entertainment, and Sports brands associated with Yahoo, and not forgetting AOL.com.

Founded in 2019, Berlin-based Anzu has raised $17 million in investment to date from the likes of WPP, Sony Innovation Fund, Bitkraft Ventures and HBSE Ventures.