Mobile Mavens

How should developers respond to Apple's shifting of the goalposts on ad incentivisation?

How should developers respond to Apple's shifting of the goalposts on ad incentivisation?

Last week, reports hit the web suggesting Apple is beginning to reject games if they contain third party app promotions and offer in-game credits for watching videos of apps from other developers -  

As with all things Apple, a set policy does not yet seem to exist, with, for instance, Applifier having told us its GameAds platform is yet to suffer. However, we've heard from numerous developers privately who suggest this new policy is very much in force.

So, we asked our mobile experts:

If Apple has taken to banning apps with incentivised videos, what impact will this have on developers and ad platforms alike?

Furthermore, is it perfectly reasonable for Apple to have such a hold over app discovery and monetisation within its own ecosystem, or is it hurting the prosperity of the very businesses that have helped power iOS?

 

Charles Chapman Director / Owner First Touch Games

We've been a fan of incentivised videos for their revenue and retention benefits, and I've said in the past that everyone's a winner - players, developers and advertisers – but not Apple of course.

So, if there is some sort of ban, and it doesn't seem clear yet whether there actually is, then obviously there'll be a hit in the short term, but this UA & Marketing spend that was going on incentivised videos will likely just move elsewhere, whether to non-incentivised videos, or to other forms of in app advertising.

So it'll be down to developers to move quickly, come up with other ways of keeping non-payers playing, whilst looking to take advantage of other forms of advertising in their games if appropriate.

As to whether it's reasonable for Apple – yes it is. It creates a very nice (walled) garden for us all to play in, and if it wants to change the rules of entry then it is entitled to do so. There are plenty of other gardens for us to play in if we don't like it.

Wilhelm Taht Executive Vice President, Games Rovio

It's a little unclear yet whether Apple will enforce this through and through yet.

If Apple does put a stop to incenvitized video or static ads, it'll harm free-to-play.
Wilhelm Taht

If Apple does put a stop to incentivising Facebook sharing and inviting, it has an effect on virality - a free-to-play pillar. If it puts a stop to incenvitized video or static ads, it harms monetisation - another free-to-play pillar.

So basically it affects the free-to-play economic model somewhat, and as Charles says; "move quickly, come up with other ways of keeping non-payers playing".

However, enforcing this rule will hurt certain genres of games more than other - and hopefully it doesn't mean that the content pool becomes homogenised as a result. The store benefits from having many kinds of free-to-play games, not only mid-core or hard core strategy games.

Dan Gray Head of Studio ustwo

In term of Facebook sharing etc, I think it'll come down to the type of content that's actually shared.

Having notification after notification on Facebook for Candy Crush invites reflects badly on the platform and the service and will probably be clamped down on, but sharing interesting and unique content to friends in an unobtrusive way will remain though in my opinion.

Devs will just have to be creative with how they offer that feature, leaving Facebook friends with a smile on their face from seeing some interesting content, without it feeling like a takeaway menu through your letterbox.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

I can absolutely see how another shifting of the goal posts will create uncertainly, a dollop of outrage, and quite a bit of head-scratching for those companies who are over-reliant on incentivised video for monetisation.

One of the recurring themes with these Apple policy and rule changes is that it never seems to be completely clear, so people are still reliant on individual app interpretation - which I think creates the bulk of the confusion and resentment.

Apple's policy and rule changes never seems to be completely clear.
John Ozimek

From a consumer point of view, I can see that poor implementation of incentivised advertising can really effect the experience, which we know Apple is a pretty fierce protector of.

Just to cite a personal example, I have been playing Clumsy Ninja with my son, and there are certain points within the game where you are required to view video ads in order to progress - unless you spend currency to skip. I have no problem with the game offering to cut cool down times in return for viewing ads, but I found the use of advertising as a mandatory progress vehicle pretty poor - especially in an app so popular young kids.

There have been a few stories already suggesting this is all about Apple pushing back against the success of Facebook advertising, but I do think it's more about keeping the app experience positive.

Keith Andrew With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

Somewhat ironic given the platform Apple gave Clumsy Ninja. Ahem.

Wilhelm Taht Executive Vice President, Games Rovio

If the rules are going to be enforced retroactively (such as some of the sources claim), from a fairness point of view, the ones to be addressed first should be the ones found on top of top-grossing. From top to bottom. No?

This would efficiently signal it to the wider industry also, and leave no room for discussion any more.


With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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Sagi Mann
While the crackdown on incentivized traffic has been going on for 3 years now, and app discovery crackdown has been going on for about a year now, it seems that these are the two main challenges (sections 3.10 and 2.25 respectively in the Apple review guidelines) advertisers will face. For 3.10, I'm not surprised. Getting rewarded for posting on FB does not directly chart ranks, however it does so indirectly by potentially creating a lot of meaningless installs by those who see your post and are downloading an app - not because they need it - but because they want to assist you in some way. I would assume this would take a few more case studies to see where Apple is going with this. About 2.25, personally, as a former owner of an app discovery project, the shift was that apps are no longer rejected for "primarily promoting other apps", as I was once told by the review team, but rather for "promoting other apps", i.e. if you are using some app wall component, doesn't matter how insignificant it is in your app, you will now likely get rejected.
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