The Scoop: Roblox continues its metaverse domination by rolling out ads

Plus: Study casts doubt on banks’ climate pledges; Peloton navigates life as a media company.

When you think about Roblox, your mind likely conjures up images of a free-roaming computer game that allows players to exist in worlds of their own creation. But a new development from the game’s creators stands to insert something new into the game — advertisements.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Roblox is working with ad tech company PubMatic to bring virtual advertisement to the game world. The video ads will only be seen by users 13 years old and older, and realm creators who opt to show the ads in their worlds will get a cut of the ad revenue from Roblox.

According to Roblox, the end goal is to make ads seamless and easy to buy. Stephanie Latham, vice president of global partnerships, said “We are very intentionally looking for ways to bring our audience thoughtfully to all brands.”

Roblox has also taken a unique path in its new advertisement rollout by encouraging brands to build their own Roblox realms for seamless immersion. So far, brands like the NFL, Nike and Chipotle have opted in.

Why it matters: Any time there’s change within a community, questions are bound to follow. That’s especially true when you’ve got a game that is geared towards kids instituting ad space within the game. Sure, the company claims that users under 13 won’t be exposed to the new video ads, but there’s still a question over whether the influence of advertisements will affect the user experience across the board.

Additionally, ads and overt commerce can sometimes alienate the users that form the core demographic of the game. Other games, like Madden NFL, have been sharply criticized for a perceived emphasis on microtransactions that use real-life currency. In the Wall Street Journal piece, there’s also a reference to pushback against Amazon Prime bringing ads into its viewing experience (unless users pay an additional fee). Will similar resistance at Roblox follow?

Long story short, it’s understandable for companies to invest in advertising. But when you start toying with user experience to introduce advertising, be prepared for public pushback. But on the flip side, it’s also an opportunity for brands to crack a new market and meet new consumers within the Roblox game.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • Amid our current climate crisis, it’s common to see big companies make public pledges to reduce their emissions or otherwise fight climate change. But what if those promises don’t become action? According to The New York Times, that just might be the case with some big banks. The piece states that $130 trillion in voluntary commitments to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change from banks across the globe didn’t make much of a dent in the issue at large. Instead, the banks in question didn’t change their lending practices for high emissions clients, giving little incentive for any recipients to change their emissions behaviors. “Our results cast doubt on the efficacy of voluntary climate commitments for reducing financed emissions, whether through divestment or engagement,” wrote economists from the central bank, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia Business School who analyzed lending by European banks that had signed on to the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, the banking group of the Glasgow initiative. Commitments to stem the tide of climate change are a great way to gin up positive sentiment in the public sphere. But if those pledges don’t amount to anything, then what? This news might cause the public to cast a wary eye on climate pledges going forward. From a PR perspective, communicators should help hold their organizations accountable internally with these types of promises, through updates and renewed commitments. But if things don’t pan out, you be prepared to answer questions that shed light into the situation that resonates with your audience.
  • When you think of Peloton, you probably think of a fancy exercise bike. But what if that bike was much more than just something that sits in your home office? A piece for The Verge opines on the state of Peloton not just as an exercise bike company, but a media outfit. Peloton’s loyal following transcends just the workout bike and spills over to social media, with custom-made hashtags to help guide users into communities. Peloton is an interesting case study in which a product becomes much more than its function and enables the creation of communities and media products. In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s worth it for brands to consider how to market beyond surface-level functions. Think about all the capabilities the product or service you’re marketing has in terms of building community. Once you’ve identified them, lean into those community builders to keep the conversation and hype going as Peloton did.
  • Unfortunately for you and your grocery bill, inflation doesn’t seem to be fading as fast as we’d all like. According to CNBC, the Consumer Price Index, a key marker of inflation, rose 3.5% in March. Inflation influences far more than just the economy — it also can leak over into public sentiment and can influence how companies position themselves. For instance, if consumers have less money to spend, that might cause organizations in the retail space to rethink how they promote their products, such as emphasizing value or pushing less-expensive options over their premium line. Inflation isn’t just something that the government has to get a handle on — it has real impacts on publicity through the marketplace too. Advertisers and marketers need to be on their toes and be ready to pivot their marketing strategies accordingly.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.


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