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Devs lose out on thousands of dollars as Apple cracks down on offerwall ads

Developers on and off the record discuss impact
Devs lose out on thousands of dollars as Apple cracks down on offerwall ads
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Developers that use offerwall advertisements are losing out on thousands of dollars daily after Apple suddenly began enforcing its rules on incentivised installs by banning them.

An offerwall is an ad unit that lists various offers users can complete to get a reward in the app they’re playing. This can include watching a video, completing a survey or installing another game. According to IronSource's website, 25 per cent of the top 100 grossing games monetise with an offerwall.

Under section 3.2.2 of Apple’s App Store review guidelines, Apple states it is unacceptable to create “an interface for displaying third-party apps, extensions, or plug-ins similar to the App Store or as a general-interest collection”.

Apple crackdown

Over Easter Apple began cracking down on the use of incentivised installs in offerwalls - specifically CPI and CPE offers, which reward users for installing another game and also for completing actions in them. Developers are also not allowed to deeplink through to a web product.

The crackdown affected a number of ad companies that provide offerwalls, including Tapjoy, Fyber and IronSource, as well as numerous developers and publishers that use them.

Multiple sources have claimed that around Easter weekend, any app that had a Tapjoy SDK installed was being rejected by Apple. This included any apps that wanted to submit a new build.

For its part, Apple declined to comment on the matter. Tapjoy meanwhile did not confirm or deny that apps utilising its SDK were being rejected, but in a statement its chief revenue officer Shannon Jessup told that apps using it were now being accepted on the App Store.

"Based on communication with Apple, we removed the pay-per-engagement (PPE) advertising product for iOS,” said Jessup.

“It appears that other platforms that were running PPE have also removed this ad unit.”

“Based on communication with Apple, we removed the pay-per-engagement (PPE) advertising product for iOS.”
Shannon Jessup

Fyber president Offer Yehudai said by its understanding, Apple is trying to prevent any manipulation of the app chart by banning offerwalls that incentivise a user to install an app.

“It is our intention to be 100 per cent compliant with this new enforcement,” said Yehudai.

“As CPE (cost per engagement) and CPI (cost per install) offers violate Apple’s developer terms and conditions, we have proactively blocked all CPE and CPI campaigns on iOS in order to protect our publishers from their app or any app updates being rejected.

“The impact of this enforcement on developers will vary depending on how much of their revenue stems from app install-related campaigns, compared to CPA (cost per action).

“Even with CPE and CPI turned off, developers for whom offerwall worked successfully in the past can still drive a strong ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active User) with CPA campaigns.

“Direct response/CPA campaigns will still be running on Fyber’s iOS offerwall. We have made continuous investments to our DR/CPA business in the last couple of years as part of an effort to help publishers diversify their offer wall demand, and plan to continue these investments."

IronSource did not provide any comment on the issue.

Developer impact

For developers and publishers, the impact of Apple’s crackdown on this form of advertising is significant.

One industry source claimed to that some developers make six-figure sums daily through offerwalls and could reasonably expect a revenue drop of 50 to 70 per cent on iOS, making a “material” impact. It's also a tool used for user acquisition purposes.

Kongregate VP of marketing and ad monetisation Jeff Gurian meanwhile said offerwalls provide a good amount of revenue for its apps, so removing them “is a blow”.

"We have observed that users who engage with the offerwall, and depending on the game, retain 30 to 100 per cent better compared to users who do not engage and go on to make between 1.5 to nine-times more IAP purchases," said Gurian.

“Unfortunately the lack of offerwall engagement and revenue will have downstream impacts on player value and our UA strategy.”

“Unfortunately the lack of offerwall engagement and revenue will have downstream impacts on player value and our user acquisition strategy.”
Jeff Gurian

Boombit head of mobile marketing Matej Lancaric said it discovered the publisher discovered the issue around April 18th through a new game it was publishing.

At the time, the team didn’t realise that problems it had experienced stemmed from Apple’s crackdown and the rejection of the Tapjoy SDK. The team discovered the issue, which only affected the App Store and not Google Play, after reading about it on multiple forums.

“After digging deeper in forums, we found out that also other developers had problems with this SDK and that Apple was rejecting new apps because of offerwall campaigns,” said Lancaric.

“But not all devs had those campaigns enabled and got rejected as well.

“After a couple of days, Tapjoy said that everything is now being approved by Apple again. All of the functions of the Tapjoy SDK, including rewarded video, offerwall, and interstitials, are okay on iOS."

He added: “Apple updated their policies and PPE (pay per engagement) campaigns are officially banned, but Tapjoy SDKs are getting approved.

“Now developers need to look for new/alternative methods of monetisation. We’ll see what those will be, but maybe surveys, which I am hearing a lot about these days.”