Anzu.io raises $9 million for in-game ad platform

In-game advertising isn’t new, but the Tel Aviv-based Anzu.io claims it can make it more intelligent by seamlessly integrating digital ads directly into the gameplay, without disrupting the user experience. Anzu.io also measures the ad’s effectiveness with real-time analytics.

The gaming industry hit $174.9 billion in 2020, according to market researcher Newzoo. It is now one of the premium channels for advertisers due to the massive opportunity for ad exposure and engagement from esports tournaments and ever-evolving streaming culture. With its hyper-targeting capabilities, Anzu.io creates personalized advertising experiences within games and replaces hard-coded advertisement norms with programmatically served dynamic in-game ads.

As with the previous round, Bitkraft Ventures led the funding with co-lead HBSE Ventures, Also participating were marketing services organization WPP, the Sony Innovation Fund, Alumni Ventures Group, Gaingels, The Chicago Cubs, Goal Ventures, and angel investor Marc Merrill, co-chairman of Riot Games.

If you’ve heard about in-game ads before, you’re not imagining it. I wrote about in-game advertising companies like Massive more than 10 years ago. Of course, today the programmatic and real-time data optimization should be far better.

And that’s what Anzu.io promises with its capability to deploy real-world ads in Interactive Advertising Bureau-recognized formats through the exclusive inventory of top video games that promise both brand safety and ad viewability. The company says the ads are not intrusive for gameplay.

This time, the funding will be used to catalyze Anzu’s commercial growth and fuel and marketing activities to propel the company forward on a global scale. The investors will act as strategic partners and Anzu will remain an independent company.

It works on PC, and mobile platforms, Anzu’s programmatic technology blends real-world ads into video games, esports tournaments, and live streams.

Clients include game publishers Ubisoft, Lion Castle, and Nacon. Brands using it include Pepsico, Samsung, American Eagle, and Vodafone.

Anzu.io’s roadmap includes new products that will complement and amplify its core technology. Anzu.io is expanding in the U.S., starting with Los Angeles and New York. It is also expanding to Singapore, China, and other core locations.

Itamar Benedy, CEO of Anzu, cofounded the company. Benedy was previously CEO of Berlin-based Glispa, and Anzu.io cofounder Ben Fenster was previously chief product officer of Pay.com. Anzu.io’s chief technology officer is Michael Badichi, previously head of the Innovation Lab at Ironsource.

The company has 34 employees in six offices, including at the headquarters in Tel Aviv. The company plans to hire more people in the U.S., and it will grow its sales and marketing teams.

In an email to GamesBeat, Benedy said, “From a tech perspective, gaming technology is now able to support blended and dynamically-updated ads without slowdowns or delays and the devices themselves are strong enough to serve ads in real time. Moreover, the internet is now fast enough to support serving ads in real time in online games, which represent the bulk of video games, not to mention esports tournaments and streaming.”

He added, “On the advertising side, advancements in digital advertising and the introduction of programmatic technologies help to make in-game ads scalable. On top of that, Anzu is the first to bring digital standards around ad viewability, brand lift measurement, audience verification, data enrichment, and fraud detection in-game, allowing advertisers to feel confident in gaming as a media channel. The fact that gaming is considered to be an emerging media channel now indicates that the mindset of advertisers has changed. For all of these reasons, the gaming industry — not just mobile, but PC, and console, as well — along with advertisers are now willing to accept in-game advertising as a scalable business model.”

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