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HomeInterviewsCXBuzz Interview With Natalia Vasilyeva VP Marketing at Anzu

CXBuzz Interview With Natalia Vasilyeva VP Marketing at Anzu

Hi Natalia, Congrats on your recent Round A funding! Can tell us about yourself and share some background about Anzu (and how you ended up joining Anzu).

Thank you for your congratulations! It’s a really exciting time for Anzu. 

My marketing journey started what feels like a long time ago with the world’s leader of mobile fitness apps,, and then I gained more marketing experience as a marketing manager at Glispa, a global AdTech company. As a marketer with a love for data and a proven track record in AdTech, I feel comfortable in this space. 

I’m also proud to say that I’ve been the Anzu marketing lead since day one — I was really inspired by Anzu’s mission to make in-game advertising better and could see the potential impact I could have as a marketer. Anzu blends real-world ads directly into video games, esports tournaments, and live streams across mobile, PC, and console platforms. Its advanced platform allows brands to reach exclusive audiences in brand-safe, scalable, and measurable ways and game developers and publishers to add new, sustainable revenue streams in ways that respect gamers and preserve the gaming experience. I’m really happy about all that our small-but-growing team has accomplished in such a short time. 

How much has the consumer sentiments changed in your space during 2020 and how is 2021 going to look like?

While gaming certainly was already on the rise, the pandemic accelerated the speed of the industry’s growth. Gaming numbers exceeded expectations in 2020, with nearly $175 billion in revenue from an audience of over 3.1 billion people! This was due to new consumer sentiments: as people were forced to stay at home, many turned to gaming for entertainment, as a fun or distracting way to spend time, and even more importantly, as a safe — aka, socially distant — way to interact with others.

I think that 2021 is going to involve us all getting used to the ‘new normal.’ But I believe that gaming is here to stay and will continue to grow. I expect to see mobile continuing to lead the industry — it now accounts for more than 50% of the market — and further development of new forms of interactions and playing, like the rise of mobile sports and creative collaborations between brands and games, as we saw with Travis Scott in Fortnite or global brands in Animal Crossing

In your POV, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience benchmarks?

End users and gamers in specific have always had ‘love-hate’ relationships with advertising. But I prefer to say that people don’t hate ads, they just hate bad ads. And that’s why I take pride in marketing and promoting an advertising company that cares about gamers and respects their gaming experience, first and foremost! As a marketer, it’s important for me to know that the acceptance rate of our kind of advertising is high. 

If you want to talk about measurable KPIs, just like other brand-awareness advertising the ways we measure in-game advertising effectiveness includes using tracking and ad verification to validate ads — like in any other advertising channels — and brand lift measurement in order to measure how successful and impactful an in-game ad campaign is. We’re measuring brand awareness, recall, consideration, and even purchase intent. Some recent campaigns for global name brands included results such as: 5% increase in brand recognition; up to 12% increase in brand memorability and about 20% higher purchase intent. For brand awareness campaigns, brand uplift is one of the most important KPIs that prove success and effectiveness.

The changing role of VP Marketing

How much has the role of the VP Marketing changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?

I don’t think there’s one answer to that question. I think that the way the role of VP Marketing has been affected depends on the industry you’re operating in. For instance, being part of an AdTech player and a global company, I already was used to a lot of ways of doing business and routines that COVID brought to other industries: working remotely, Zoom meetings, relying on digital channels, and such. 

I’d say that, as a group, marketers found themselves in a difficult position being unable to run offline campaigns, events, OOH advertising campaigns, and much more! In a short timeframe, we were forced to shift our way of thinking and start communicating with audiences in totally new (and often limited!) ways. We’ve faced not only reduced purchasing power for many consumers, but also a general lack of ability to spend so much on consumer goods, out-of-home entertainment, restaurants, and such due to realities of closures. For some industries, it’s been a disaster! 

Obviously, the companies and industries that were ready for digital transformation or had already been digital-friendly were in a better position during this crisis, and less stressed. 

How is Anzu transforming the gaming experience landscape? 

Our vision at Anzu is to establish in-game advertising as a media channel and we are doing that by making in-game advertising better for everyone: game developers, advertisers, and the gamers themselves. 

When it comes to game developers, we are providing them with opportunities for new, sustainable revenue streams that are easy to implement and that respect gamers, which is a key pain point for them. 

For advertisers, our programmatic solution allows brands to reach the massive gaming audience in a way that is brand safe, scalable, and measurable. We are the only solution of our kind to bring real-time analytics and existing digital industry standards in-game, which gives advertisers the data and confidence they need to trust in-game advertising as a media channel. 

Finally, because we put the gamer first, we are transforming the in-game advertising experience for them. Instead of being an annoyance or disturbance, our blended, real-world in-game ads actually enhance the gaming experience by adding realism to the game. Gamers we spoke to said they appreciate seeing ads from real companies rather than fake ads from fake companies mimicking real ones. And they love that their virtual sports stadiums or race tracks or cityscapes look closer to how they look in real life!

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

Well, I think we all learned that you never know what the future holds! But I also personally learned that every crisis has two sides. It may sound strange, but while obviously a major world-wide catastrophe, COVID kind of helped gaming to bloom. So our industry had a positive outcome from an otherwise very negative experience. 

2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?

That’s a tough one! 

Since COVID broke out, webinars and online events have become the preferred way to communicate. Obviously, I also embraced this kind of activity and watched a large number of them. One of the most vivid discussions in an interesting format was The Gamer Quiz during The Drum Digital Summit that our Co-Founder & CEO, Itamar Benedy, took part in. The quiz form was super engaging and not mainstream, and I really enjoyed the content itself and all the fun the participants had.

One of the favorite conversations I personally had last year was definitely a thought-provoking chat with Grant Paterson, Business Director at The WPP Sports Practice, during IAB Gaming Upfronts. 

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should Marketing Executives gear up to the changing times?

Be ready for the change, first of all! We live in an extremely fast-paced environment, where marketers need to be agile and not to stick to the past, since proven methods and approaches might not work any more. Today we work from home? Great. Tomorrow we work from the moon? Ok, as long as the internet connection is good enough! 🙂

At the end of the day, the message to marketers is to keep your finger on the pulse, be backed by a team you can trust, and embrace the change.

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