You launched your business as a one-man operation, now you’re the first-ever Crowdcube funded company to trade on the London Stock Exchange. What advice can you give to other business owners looking to do the same?

Don’t be afraid to completely pivot your business’ focus.

James Draper, CEO at Bidstack

My original idea for Bidstack focused on digital out of home (DOOH) advertising – think Piccadilly Circus’ digital billboards and screens – but I later realised that the technology we’d developed was more suited to the gaming industry. Having the confidence to make those hard decisions and completely reimagine your USP is often the key to success. Since that point, Bidstack has gone from strength to strength, even through a global pandemic. It’s the ability to sell your company’s story – no matter the road to success – that is extremely important in motivating your team to achieve great results. This goes hand-in-hand with recognising the contributions of your employees and empowering your staff to ensure a collective effort in growing a business.

Throughout the past five years, I’ve focused on many different elements of business operations and while I needed to commit to the day-to-day aspects as the company scaled, I’ve now moved into a more strategic role. Being CEO means leading whichever facet that’s needed to mature a company’s infrastructure, and achieve its long-term ambitions and visions.

Your company is focused on building an in-game, native, programmatic advertising platform. What do business owners need to know about this tech?

Bidstack’s tech is designed to enable brands to place advertising naturally within video games. Those ads placements are created to fit the aesthetics of the games that they appear in, providing contextually relevant content for advertisers and protecting the gaming experience for the end user. When benchmarking the amount of attention our in-game ads receive compared to display, our in-game ads consistently outperform those traditional ad channels, in some cases by more than double.

Whether an ad is placed on a trackside banner, a pitchside LED board in a stadium, a cityscape billboard or another native space within a games’ virtual world, our programmatic Private Market Places (PMPs) are operated on an individual game basis. Gaming provides absolute transparency to brands and the Creative Approval Process we utilise removes the possibility of ad fraud while guaranteeing brand safety and viewability.

As with a lot of digital placements, we can segment users by anonymised data and drill down into performance insights to better understand the ideal creative frequency and exposure levels – such as session duration, day and the number of gaming sessions –  as well as the total time ads are in view.

How has COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown changed your industry and what does this

mean for your company’s future plans?

The pandemic thrust gaming into the mainstream in a completely new way. While the industry had attracted an already enormous audience via mobile, PC and console, global lockdowns changed consumer patterns overnight – providing new-found time to interact with games of all kinds.

At Bidstack, we saw a huge jump in the number of ad requests we received as the content consumed and hours played skyrocketed. The increase in the number of gamers that we were able to engage – those that were investing time into honing their skills and connecting with friends and family online – coupled with brands pivoting their ad strategies intended for live sports audiences towards esports and gaming audiences really benefited us as a business. In-game advertising has become an exciting new way for brands to connect with those displaced consumers.

As we look at 2021, Bidstack is focused on continuing to serve the evolving needs of advertisers, game developers, and gamers. We’re expanding into new markets to serve new demand and developing our mobile gaming strategy, as consumer patterns establish themselves. We’ll be keeping an eye on 5G and cloud gaming developments too, whilst also progressing with establishing a framework for in-game advertising to ensure it is recognised as a trusted advertising category in its own right.

How can business owners achieve success with programmatic in-game ad campaigns?

Business owners have to ensure that the creatives they put in-game are sensitive to the virtual world environment. The ad can’t take away from the gameplay; instead, successful in-game ads are part of a seamless experience where they feel like a natural element of the game. These ads should be contextually relevant and maintain the authenticity of the gaming environment. This means instead of dropping a shiny ad randomly into the middle of a game, the effects of the game are rendered on to any assets and the ad is inserted into a placement where a gamer would expect to see an ad in real life, adding to the realism of the game.

This approach shows a brand’s respect for the gaming experience and is the key to interacting with these highly-engaged audiences. When done successfully, the process not only creates revenue for all parties but also brings added authenticity to the game – this is the fine balance Bidstack are here to achieve.