About a week ago Apple announced that they will start rejecting Apps that use different virtual rewards to lure users into sharing on Facebook or watching video ads.
Apple’s history with incentivized advertising
Apple views incentivized advertising as a very bad thing and have been fighting it for a few years now in various ways. Back in the days, the excuse was that incentivized downloads mess up the top charts and Apple’s top charts should reflect real user interest in the app as many users treat top apps as better than others. Well, that sort of makes sense if we ignore Apple patronizing their users and treating them as kids who can’t tell a good app from a bad app on their own.
Why is the story with videos so different
Rejecting apps with incentivized videos is a totally different story. If you look at the history of advertising it’s hard to find a situation in which users watched ads simply because they like the ad content. Ads are almost always a step you have to go through to unlock the content you really want. Let’s see some examples:
- In TV – you watch ads so you can see the rest of the show
- Online – you see ads when you want to read an interesting article, more and more websites are now showing the ads between pages and using the next page as a reward
- On YouTube – users watch pre-roll ads in order to unlock the real clip they wanted
- In games with levels – players can watch a video to get to the next level
- In games with no levels – players watch a video to get 200 game coins
From some reason, Apple thinks that the last example is very different than the others. Well – it’s not. Incentivizing users to watch ads is the nature of advertising and is totally different than incentivizing them to take actions like subscribing to Netflix or downloading other apps.
Incentivized video is the preferred form of ads by users
If you do a survey, users will tell you that ads suck. No one likes banner ads. Interstitials are annoying and popping a 15 seconds video between two levels is the worst. Ask them about incentivized videos and they will tell you they love it. Really? Love ads? Yes! This form of advertising that lets users choose if they want to see it or not – it’s opt-in so by definition users choose to see it. Unlike every other form of advertising – the ads are not forced on them. The concept of opt-in and how NimbleBit are using it with their users is explained by David Marsh in this post
So why is apple cracking down on rewarded videos
No one really knows why Apple do what they do. Some people say that it’s just a demonstration of Apple’s ignorance of online advertising but I find that a bit hard to believe. Between owning an ad network and the acquisition of Bursly, there are enough people there that know what they are doing. Here is one line of thinking that might explain some of this madness. In the entire advertising ecosystem, there is only one party that is really unhappy with incentivized ad watches – Brand Advertisers. Their approach is that people are more impacted by brand ads when they are subconsciously viewing them. In the brand ads world, incentivized ad watches are a bad thing. Now, because big brands have big ad budgets, some organizations want to be labeled as “incent free” so brands will be more than likely to advertise in them. It’s very possible that Apple is trying to attract brand advertisers into mobile advertising. Is it good news for content apps – maybe. Is it good news for mobile game developers – probably not.