AiThority Interview with Michael Badichi, Co-founder and CTO at Anzu.io
Tell us about your journey in Technology. What inspired you to start Anzu.io?
I was always fascinated by technology and innovation, and had already begun programming by the age of 9! In my early years, I experimented with working in many areas of computing such as Reverse Engineering, Hacking, Computer Graphics, and demo-making. Tasks that did not involve creativity and innovation seldom interested me—and this truth remains today! As the years went by, I had the chance to work in a wide range of technological fields and started my own ventures. In one of such ventures, I created a product which was used by millions of users but did not monetize as expected.
Later, when I was working at IronSource, I developed several important, large-scale projects that were exposed to many monetization solutions in the form of installers and SDKs. I also began learning more about the monetization side of tech. During these years, in-game advertising was becoming quite popular, but to my surprise, instead of seeing the ads embedded into the 3D environment, ads were popping-up old-style, disrupting the user experience.
In-game was still being viewed through the lens of traditional advertising, even though it was targeted towards games and not regular apps. When I left IronSource, it became clear to me what my next venture was going to be: I wanted to create a solution that would implement in-game advertising the way I imagined it. After a lot of work behind-the-scenes, I joined forces with Itamar Benedy and Ben Fenster to create Anzu.
Tell us about your 3D advertising platform? How does it focus on the virtual space?
The platform we have built is quite innovative. It not only connects to various sources for ad content, like DSPs and Ad Exchanges, but also allows publishers to manage their own campaigns and content. Following this, the ads delivered to the SDK are matched and presented over the right 3D entity ‘placeholder’ inside the game scene. During the gameplay, the SDK measures the ad visibility and utilizes the IAB standards for impressions. The dashboard provides publishers and advertisers with real-time control over performance and operations.
How do you blend ads into the virtual space? What different technologies do you use?
Our in-game advertising deploys ads directly into the gameplay. Ads are blended into the games through a basic integration that allows us to access the game’s engine textures, physics, and geometry. While textures are updated to present the ad content, physics and geometry are used to measure ad visibility. Our blended ads are designed in a way that they deliver high performance with a small footprint. Initially designed to suit AAA titles, I’ve now built a multi-platform tech that is easily supported on new platforms and engines.
How do you ensure a great user experience and brand safety?
Anzu breaks away from the hard-coded ad technologies so prevalent in the market. One of the reasons why developers have so far shied away from fully adopting in-game ads is because such hard-coded technology made it difficult to bring in-game solutions to gaming. As I mentioned, Anzu’s in-game ads are deployed directly into the gameplay, and can be updated dynamically to create personalized content in a non-disruptive manner. The seamless integration serves immersive ads that not only keep the user experience intact, but also elevates the realism in the games, making them more valuable for the end-user.
In-game ads are by nature brand-safe because there is no risk of user-generated content. Brands can derive great value for their campaigns by advertising in top-line premium games that carry a reputation with them as high-value channels. That’s the conceptual part of brand safety. Now, speaking purely on the tech side, we have built a product that takes in-game advertising to the next level by serving pioneer solutions that were otherwise missing in the video game industry. For instance, we are the first in the market to bring an ad verification solution to gaming with Cheq, ensuring the dynamic serving of programmatic ads integrated directly into the gameplay within a viewable, brand-safe, and fraud-free environment.
What tools and ad formats does Anzu.io use?
With the development of the Anzu platform, we have tried to break new ground in bringing scalable advertising for both game developers and advertisers. On the tech side, my team and I have developed an innovative solution that makes in-game advertising more progressive while supporting the standard solutions available in the market. We use a range of tools across platforms that combine the existing tech and add more value.
When it comes to Anzu’s ad formats, real-world ads can be displayed in usual video and banners, recognized by IAB. Brands are also encouraged to try custom ad formats that go beyond standard banners since the platform supports interactivity features.
Tell us about Anzu.io’s 3D ad tracker.
When I started developing the tech, I clearly understood that without tracking ads, advertisers would not be able to use the product. As part of the tech offerings, I built our one-of-a-kind 3D ad tracker that allows the tracking and measurement of ads in real-time within 3D environments. We utilise existing ad viewability metrics to count impressions, enabling us to be integrated with the existing brand safety and ad viewability solutions required by brands. The 3D ad tracker is patent-pending and available across platforms.
How does Anzu.io connect brands and app developers? How can they leverage your platform to target their audience and to generate higher revenues?
Anzu is a premium revenue generator used by top-tier game studios across platforms. Brands are always looking for new and exciting ways to reach audiences, whereas game publishers want new ways to monetize their existing users. In order to make in-game accessible to advertisers, we developed a cross-platform solution that brings real-world ads in game through blended advertising, bridging the existing gap between brands and developers.
Anzu is a full-suite platform and we have taken special care to make in-game advertising relevant by offering granular targeting options that help advertisers reach the specific audience they want and to personalize their messaging. This is made possible through leveraging our first-party data and external data enrichment tools that provide enhanced targeting across platforms. Our recent partnership with Tru Optik, for example, gives advertisers audience-based targeting on consoles, and also increases the value of publisher inventory, benefitting both sides of the ecosystem.
Thank you, Michael! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Michael Badichi has been developing disruptive technologies for more than 30 years. Prior to Anzu, he led the Innovation Lab at IronSource and was the founder of JumiTech. He also developed the award-winning Approach line of processors as architect and developer at Zoran and has served as a mentor at the Tel Aviv Barclays techstars accelerator.
Anzu.io is an in-game advertising platform that brings real-world brand ads to video gaming and esports. Backed by BITKRAFT Esports Ventures, WPP, and Axel Springer Digital Ventures, Anzu redefines digital advertising through seamless integration of non-intrusive ads into the gameplay. Bringing real-time data and programmatic capabilities to the video gaming world, the platform promises native advertising, brand safety, and ad viewability.