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In-Game World Series Ads Needed To Be Better

We saw a range of so-called innovative ad formats take over the World Series on Fox this past week. 

Adweek’s Jason Lynch wrote a story covering how Fox and YouTube TV partnered to bring AR ads and in-game spots to the Fall Classic.

It’s the in-game ad format that’s striking a nerve with viewers.

Kristin Lemkau’s opinion is particularly important to note. She’s the CMO at JPMorgan Chase, and a prominent thought leader on brand marketing.

The in-game ads Kristin is referring to are the ones that share a split screen with live play — those awkward moments when Duracell is airing a commercial alongside a mound visit, or when YouTube TV is using the pitching change to suggest you change your TV provider.

Clever? No. Not. At. All.

However, listen to it be defended. According to YouTube’s marketing team that Lynch spoke to for his story:

“So a pitching change may talk about maybe it’s time for your own changeup and what that could be in terms of a new provider. We’re leaning heavily into context.”

Um, no, not really. 

Sure, the ads won attention — as TV[R]EV’s Jason Damata astutely pointed out on Twitter:

But the attention is forced. As Damata hints, while the ads were unskippable, they did nothing to change his behavior. And you could argue the memorable impression is anything but positive.

Adding context to the game means adding commentary, facts, some sort of valuable input tied to the gameplay at that time.

Sure, this is easier said than done, but not impossible. Take YouTube parent Google, for example.

The Google Assistant in-game ads of this year’s MLB Playoffs nail context by annotating the game. If you’ve missed them, here’s a video snapshot I grabbed from an NLCS between the Dodgers and Brewers on Fox’s FS1.


Note that Google Assistant is providing additional facts and legitimate context to the player at the plate. A Google Assistant in-game overlay appears on screen as the announcer asks Hey Google, where is Cody Bellinger from? as he steps to the plate, and then Google Assistant answers with text and voice reading aloud Cody Bellinger was born in Scottsdale, Arizona

YouTube TV and others should take a page out of Google Assistant’s book and consider ways to legitimately add value to game when their brands share the screen with gameplay. Because one thing seems for certain — in-game ad promos aren’t going away. That means advertisers need to raise their game to the level of play on the court or field. 

Yes, it’s a challenge. But you’re paying for this challenge. You should work to make it pay off.

Otherwise, you’re just aggravating consumers and ad wonks alike. 

Your move, advertisers. The World Series comes but once a year. Make it count next time.