Big money, big boards, big banners: how virtual advertising is changing the way brands reach

Evaluating the high implementation costs for unique ad formats in gaming, sports, and film

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Technology has made it possible to adventure through medieval worlds via a phone screen, stream hundreds of sports plays at home, and watch movies in 3D. These digital integrations bring portability to a once static experience. As audiences move online and new features constantly roll out, the bar is placed high for advertisers to follow suit. Billboards, newspaper ads, and door-to-door sales now seem like the practices of yesteryear. Virtual reality and video manipulation have brought the purely imagined into existence.

Nevertheless, high costs, production needs, and physical dependencies are barriers that many content creators face. Industry-specific requirements have caused silos in ad integration technologies. In the following, we look into esports, traditional sports, and film/broadcasting to review challenges that can be solved with 4D Sight’s AI-enabled monetization technology.

Esports and Gaming advertisements rely on high development cost and long production times

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Advertising within a video game using billboards and Gillette car wraps (img src:

With the increasing digitization and access to the Internet/computers throughout the world, video games have become engrossed within the global society. Alongside casual gamers, professional teams and esports have also grown as a worldwide entertainment phenomenon with over 253 million dedicated viewers in 2019.

As such, advertisers have been coming up with unique and different ways to impact their reach toward gamers- a no-longer-niche group that has now grown to 2.6 billion people worldwide. Advertisements developed for the videogame and esports industries include:

1. Ads integrated within the game environment

CPM: $4–12

Process: Implemented as an SDK into the source code of the game

Challenges: Requires advertisers and broadcasters make connections with developers of the game directly, as well as dedicated engineering teams to implement it

2. In-stream video ads in esports broadcasting

CPM $25.22

Process: Made up of either pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll advertisements, similar to TV commercials

Challenges: Esports viewers, who are overall more technologically-enabled, can download ad-blockers to prevent viewing in-stream video ads (roughly 25.8% of all Internet users)

3. Sponsored events and tournaments

Sponsorship spent on the esports industry overall: $224 million

Process: Brands and advertisers can sponsor whole esports events, tournaments, leagues, and teams- similarly to how they sponsor their sports counterparts.

Intel teamed with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) to create the Intel Extreme Masters tour, bringing in 46 million unique online viewers.

Challenges: Brands have to negotiate deals, fund events, etc- leading to high amounts of cost and time to integrate.

4. Mobile game ads

CPM $3.50 for non-native ads; native ads $10

Process: Ad breaks to receive better content and items in-game (Similar to traditional ad rolls on television broadcasts, except as a reward component)

Challenges: Targeted full-length ads are for casual or free video games, such as Candy Crush Saga or subscription service games to prevent detracting from the experience, which may cause negative sentiment to users.

Branding and sponsorship within sports have hardware and physical dependencies

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Courtside advertisements for Western Union at NBA game (img src:

Sports culture is deeply permeated into daily life. From going to live stadium games to watching at home with family and friends, we are emotionally and sometimes financially invested in how well our teams play. Their victories feel like our own. Many of us aspire to be like the MVPs, adapting to what they wear or how they act or what they like.

Like fans back home, brands also have a strong connection with sports. With opportunities to reach millions of viewers worldwide and build lasting connections with sports role models, brands become symbols of support for sports events and a means to express who we are as fans. Unsurprisingly, the North American sports sponsorship market in 2018 was valued at $17.17 billion, projected to grow to over $20 billion by 2020. As technological advancements have progressed toward augmented and virtual reality, the ways that brands can reach audiences have only increased.

Nevertheless, price and implementation difficulties need to be accounted for and analyzed.

Physical ads are costly and run general campaigns

1. Signage, banners, logo-printing, add-ons

Costs: $30,000 — $X00,000
For popular sports teams, the price range to place large signs is from 5 and 6 figures. For instance, the Baltimore Orioles charged a minimum of $30,000 for stadium ad placements, reaching up to $750,000 for Camden Yards. Meanwhile, jersey advertising and on-court advertising could reach $2 million annually for NBA teams.

Process: Printed banners and posters, branded court and lounges, added onto cup holders and food options

Challenges: When viewed live or broadcast, the effectiveness of physical ads is highly dependent on the weather on a particular day and where viewers are sitting. Glares and shadows within camera capture can make even the most expensive in-stadium ad spaces hard to see. Constraints to how these banners and court-side ads are placed also make it difficult to rotate or change messages. Thus, many of these campaigns are not able to account for different audiences as the sporting event becomes televised.

Virtual/digital advertising, though promising, has extra hardware needs

2. Green screen

Cost: unknown, but likely low

Process: Popular in Major League Baseball, the green screen is often added behind the home plate, where the main centerfield camera is focusing. For live audiences, the area is simply green, but broadcasts will have different advertisements present. Usually, these ads are specific to the region in which the viewer is watching and digitally overlaid.

Challenges: Beyond opportunity costs from having a green screen shown to audiences, the analog approach to digital ads has operating difficulties. Though green screens allow each broadcast of a game to have multiple audiences feeds, it is hard to maintain the lighting environment that allows green screens to work best, as well as preventing physical obstructions. Sometimes entertaining moments result. For example, Yoenis Cespedes’ neon green arm sleeve made headlines in 2015, when a Chevrolet ad was mistakenly placed on his sleeve during the NLDS game.

3. Scoreboard and LED sign advertising

Cost: $30,000+
Depending on the size and scope of LED implementations, costs may vary. For the NCAA basketball LED installation for Creighton, the total costs were reported to be $34,000.

Process: Sideline and courtside graphics on scoreboards allow semi-digital approaches to physical advertising

Challenges: Space restrictions and installation requirements create unnecessary constraints for ad campaigns. Meanwhile, when broadcasted, the ads cannot adapt to the audiences that are watching from different places and countries.

4. Virtual signage

Cost: $80,000 — $ 90,000 installation

Process: Additional equipment is added to LED boards or broadcasting cameras to allow for the processing of broadcasted images. A separate method involves 3D camera calibration to generate graphics within the production pipeline.

Challenges: These add-ons are sometimes specific to a certain brand of advertising boards and may have limits to how many cameras can be used. Hardware dependencies create needs for restocking already functioning inventory. Furthermore, on-site and remote teams are needed to run and process video input, making the set-up and deployment experience more difficult.

Film and broadcasting companies look toward embedding ads, rather than playing interruptive ones

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Even James Bond uses his Vaio laptop on his missions (img src: )

Film and TV advertisements have been involved with the broadcasting industry from as early as 1941 when ads on TV were finally unbanned by the United States FCC. Advertising on television originally allowed for broadcasts to remain free over the air for viewers. Nowadays, ads on TV and film have become a booming industry by itself.

With pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads becoming a nuisance to paying TV channel subscribers, moviegoers, and digital media streamers alike- advertisers have found different ways to expand reach to a wider audience. Embedded and native advertising, in general, has become a crowd and brand favorite for easily putting up a message and campaign awareness without diminishing brand image as a daily nuisance. These forms of ads include:

1. Product Placement

Cost: Upwards of $15k — $30+ million

Process: Integrated as props, banner, flyers, etc. into the film or TV show episode

Advertisers in the digital age now utilize deep machine learning to make effective decisions on brands, audience sentiment/reaction, and to figure out the best choices for advertisers.

BEN (Brand Entertainment Network) has been weaving brands into TV and movie content for over 40 years now, while other companies like Ryff can digitally add products into the scene with AI and CGI that can be tailored to the viewer.

Challenges: Cost is extremely high to negotiate with film/TV producers, high cost to integrate and setup product as well.

2. Branded/Sponsored Content

Cost: Depending on crew/length/usage, production costs around $10k-30k

Process: Brands and companies can sponsor a show or create content revolving around the use of their product or service.

Can include Branded Content series (Hot Ones talk show on Youtube, IRL Podcast by Mozilla, Marvel’s Runaways by Lyft, LEGO movies, etc)

Brand recall in sponsored content is 86% higher than traditional advertising.

Challenges: Content usually is made entirely by the company/brand. Must hire producers, cameramen, actors, editors, directors, stage crew, screenwriters in addition to content distribution managers.

3. Virtual Advertising

Virtual Advertising and Product Placement in streaming media services (Netflix, Roku) allows for targeted advertising to its users outside of generalized advertising types that appeal to a wider audience and with more targeting power.

4D Sight: AI-enabled monetization that is easy to deploy, cost-effective, and organic

4D Sight’s overlaid ads are scalable across all content mediums without the need for physical and hardware supports.

Responding to the difficulties faced by content creators within these 3 industries, 4D Sight provides a dynamic, real-time solution focusing on virtual ad placement and video processing. Via channeling broadcasts and streams through 4D Sight’s servers, producers can easily identify and repurpose ad spaces, while maintaining the original environment of a given video. This would create an effective campaign that is non-intrusive, versatile, and modular. Streamers can gain more control over how, when, and where ads are placed, while major sports broadcasters can increase viewership with 4D Sight’s custom context-aware ad placements to identify key game moments. Consumer insights and audience engagement are likewise gathered when ads are run, providing content creators with the information needed to succeed.

The many industries challenges brought upon by changing audiences, expectations, and need for cost-efficiency in advertising for the esports, sports, film, and TV entertainment industries have led brands and broadcasters to utilize new and innovative ad methods. Each industry has its forms of advertising methods that work for them, yet they may be costly/time-intensive to produce. Brands are forced to cater to the individual industries’ needs and must implement many more forms of ads. However, with 4D Sight, brands and companies can work with all industry types in unique, innovative, and unified ad campaigns- while broadcasters can repurpose ad spaces and identify key innovations. Virtual advertising unites ad space insertion into broadcasts, regardless of whether they are for esports, sports, film, TV, or any other entertainment industry.

Written by

Founder and CEO of 4D Sight, working on deep video monetization across various mediums. To learn more please visit

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