4 In-game Native Advertising Examples (and What All Mobile Publishers Can Learn from Them)

Native advertising is a great way of promoting products, brands or community channels within a mobile game. By circumventing traditional ad networks and creating adverts that fit the context of each app, mobile publishers can make money from advertising, deliver a natural experience for users and ensure that any interactions with those adverts return investment for buyers.

How though can you integrate native advertising into the fabric of your game? Here are 4 native advertising examples of how it can be done well (or not) and some advice on what you can learn from each of them.

1. Football Manager Classic – Real World Advertising Replaced

Ever watched a game of soccer before and noticed the advertising hoardings around the side? The team at Sports Interactive clearly have, which is why they use their in-game hoardings to advertise real world businesses.


In Football Manager Classic, the adverts that surround the pitch each link back to a real-world partner. So if you tap the Sky Bet advert or Sega adverts, you’re taken via the mobile web to the main sites for those companies.

As Football Manager Classic is a premium game, the majority of these hoardings direct to charity partners the company works with (such as Special Effect and Prostate Cancer UK). But other soccer games like Tiki-Taka Soccer and FIFA Mobile direct more actively towards commercial partners.

What marketers can learn from this:

Native advertising works in this context because it simply transplants natural real-world advertising into the digital context. Any game or app featuring billboards, posters, and flyers could take advantage of this.

2. Crossy Road – Cross Promotion through Gameplay

In hit game Crossy Road, playing as a different character changes the state of the game world. If you switch from the default chicken character to the Old Time Lady, the world will change to a sepia color and you’ll play along to a 1920s piano soundtrack to make unlocking something new feel important.

This simple gameplay mechanic allows the team to cross-promote other games within Crossy Road simply and effectively. And there is no better example of this than when they did it ahead of the release of PacMan 256, their officially branded twist on the classic PacMan gameplay.


Players who used either PacMan or one of the Ghosts in the game saw the world transforming into a black and neon arcade world. For anyone playing as a ghost, they had to avoid hitting PacMan and progress as far as possible to get a high score. And for PacMan, progress is measured in Crossy Road by how many pellets he picks up – a complete change from the distance-based scoring method.

By weaving the characteristics of the product they’re promoting into the gameplay, the Crossy Road team has created an easily replicable native formula that has allowed them to promote Disco Zoo, Monument Valley and even K-Pop superstar Psy in game.

What marketers can learn from this: If you create a solid basis for your game or app that allows for easy adaptation of content, you can more easily change to suit the demand of your advertisers.

3. Angry Birds Go – Sponsored Power-ups

Need help clearing a tough level and want to avoid spending to do so? Rovio understood that some players think like this, so they added an interesting native advertising option to Angry Birds Go.

Advertisers wishing to reach players in-game had the option of essentially paying for power-ups on behalf of users. At the start of a level, users have an option to run the level plainly or to use a power-up which carries a clear sponsor label so they know who gave it to them.


The result is that players who clear the level with the help of a power-up know who to thank for allowing them to do so. By removing the need to purchase an expensive IAP, it allows lower spenders the chance to progress and begins to build brand loyalty.

What marketers can learn from this: Instead of simply bending to the whim of an advertiser, it makes more sense to build a relationship between the user and the brand to help the promotion feel natural.

4. Metal Gear Solid – Getting it Totally Wrong

Back in 2010, PS3 game Metal Gear Solid showed how not to do advertising in a major game.

The stealth title featured wall to wall product placement that simply didn’t fit into the game world. Set in the 1970s during the middle of the Cold War, it made literally no sense to include cans of Pepsi and bags of Doritos (all featuring the modern branding) in the game world.


Worst of all were the t-shirts. Watching an international secret agent subtly sneaking into a military base while wearing a bright green Mountain Dew t-shirt was a clear example of how this early advertising effort failed to keep its in-game advertising natural.

What marketers can learn from this: Native advertising only works if it fits in with the context of the game or app. If it doesn’t, native can feel more disruptive than regular advertising and antagonize your user base.


The native advertising examples above illustrate just how useful in-game ads to publishers, so if you want to start benefitting from mobile native advertising, get in touch.
Get started now by sending an email to info@pubnative.net.

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