Roblox Brand Partnerships Chief Stephanie Latham Talks Ads, Fan Hubs, User Safety and More: ‘The Shopping Lens is Endemic to Our Platform’

With an average of 77.7 million daily active users in the first quarter of 2024, Roblox is an interactive platform too good for just about any brand to pass up.

Stephanie Latham, VP of global brand partnerships at Roblox, stopped by Variety podcast Strictly Business to discuss just how lucrative Roblox has become as an experiential platform for users, creators and brands alike to interface with each other, be it through experiences built around music, film, TV, sports or individual personalities.

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“It’s been really fun to see in the music space artists like Blackpink, Twice, Elton [John], Mariah [Carey]… the full range and full gamut, come to the platform to perform to connect with our fans and really use it as a deep form of engagement,” Latham said.

“Sports is another great place,” she said. “A lot of the leagues have leaned in… like NFL, NHL, even tennis, USTA, NASCAR… using Roblox as a way to extend the events that are happening in real life.”

That IRL aspect extends to the cinema. Before it hit theaters at the of March, a playable version of Warner Bros.’ trailer for “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” hit the platform, tossing players into an obstacle course constructed around the monster movie through Kong’s hand pulling them into the experience as the trailer played.

“Godzilla x Kong” opened to $80 million domestically and has since grossed more than $550 million globally, making it one of 2024’s cinematic standouts. Per Roblox, over half of its daily users fall into the Gen Z demographic, making the platform a vital access point for more traditional markets struggling to keep younger consumers engaged.

While it doesn’t cost these users anything to participate in these experiences, they typically come with virtual merchandise for sale. Such microtransactions are the main revenue source for live services in the gaming space, allowing brand partners new revenue streams for existing IP. Earlier this year, Disney struck a $1.5 billion deal with Epic Games to build immersive Fortnite experiences based on the studio’s IP.

“The shopping lens… is so endemic to our platform,” Latham said. “When we think about entertainment and we think about other categories, it’s really exciting to imagine, once you’re able to link out to another place, you could watch an immersive trailer with a friend and then click out to ticketing to Fandango and purchase your movie tickets.”

For some brands, singular events aren’t enough. Earlier in May, Netflix and Roblox announced Netflix Networld, a persistent fan hub for the streamer’s original content that will feature “activations” tied to “Stranger Things,” “One Piece,” “Rebel Moon” and upcoming animated series “Jurassic World: Chaos Theory.” Networld went into early access last week and will be updated with more IP later.

Such hubs aren’t new to Roblox. The company partnered with Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media last year to launch Slivingland, her own virtual world that was updated in January to reward Hilton Honors points at her family’s resorts business to users who completed certain tasks, demonstrating how Roblox is as capable of adapting brands’ commercial strategies to interactive experiences as it is giving them a space to advertise in.

On the ad front, Roblox recently announced the opening of video ads to all advertisers, meaning they’ll be able to sign up to display ads within Roblox without having to build 3D experiences around them.

As good as all that sounds for interested third parties, Roblox does not show ads to users under the age of 13, another big demographic whose safety has long been scrutinized amid increases of predation observed across many popular gaming platforms.

“We’re constantly building safety features into our design, leaning into AI, leaning into [machine learning], text filters, chat filters,” said Latham. “We have… a robust team of moderators monitoring 24-7, we partner with, I think, over 20 different global organizations on this because we feel like it’s our responsibility to be so heavily leaned in here and… to lead the industry in a lot of ways.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. (Please click here to subscribe to our free newsletter.) New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded at Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud and more.

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