The Dark Side Of Incentivized Video Ads: Take Notice Of Why Apple Stopped Them

Last week Apple made some changes to its developer guidelines that will have an immediate impact on the mobile advertising industry, especially on vendors that offer "incentivized video ads."

These companies have been offering video ads ostensibly as a way of helping developers make money and get their app discovered. They work by forcing users to watch a video ad on their smartphone in order to move to the next level of an in-app game, or to receive reward points or virtual goods. In some instances, after being required to click on the video ad, users find themselves on the download page of an entirely different app.

According to TechCrunch, incentivized sharing has been a huge driver for Candy Crush’s growth, which leans heavily on its Facebook integrations and often asks users to connect with friends in order to gain some in-game reward, like additional lives. But since incentivized video ad views are fundamentally forced on the user with no choice to opt out, they are considered highly interruptive of the user experience. And because Apple always cares about the user experience, it is essentially saying, "please respect our users, or we will evict you from the iTunes Store."

Which begs the question: Why are app developers using these incentivized video ads if they provide a bad user experience? Developers do so because of their desire for immediate revenue -- no matter how that revenue is generated and with no regard to the long-term effect on their user base. Quite simply, it’s a classic case of short-term greed.

Apple is also eliminating incentivized video views so the activity doesn’t skew or “game” the iTunes Store ranking system of the most popular apps. By banning "apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store,” Apple has effectively ended incentivized video as a way to promote apps to other users. This will make sure that apps won't get a high ranking in the app discovery process just because they had extremely high levels of “forced” downloads. Organic downloads or downloads by choice will get higher rankings.

Why Brands Should Care

Mobile video is the fastest growing advertising category, so naturally brands want to take advantage of being able to offer "TV advertising" on smartphone and tablets. Brand managers want higher video completion rates, and “incentivized video views” certainly offer that, but at a dear price. Brands don’t realize if their mobile video app ads generated a forced view or the better version --  a “true view” or “view by choice.” Moreover, interrupting game play is not a positive way to deliver any brand message -- nor is paying for users to watch your ad by giving them a free tractor in Farmville or extra lives in Candy Crush. It should be obvious that this results in negative brand associations.

So what should brands do? They can follow this checklist to make sure that they are safe:

1.     Find out if one of your advertising vendor is offering “incentivized app downloads.” If the answer is yes, then stay away from that vendor, as you will never be able to tell if the view you got was a “true view” or a “forced view.”

2.      Work with advertising vendors that focus exclusively on brand advertising and not selling “performance video advertising,” “app downloads, “ “app installs” or any kind of “Guaranteed iTunes Store Ranking.” Work with mobile video specialists who can explain the landscape clearly and understand which publishers to avoid.

3.     Use third-party tracking tools so you get more reliable independent data on where your ads were placed.

4.     If you are getting surprisingly high video completion rates from your campaign, ask yourself if that is because your brand and creative are super-strong -- or because someone is getting incentivized.

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1 comment about "The Dark Side Of Incentivized Video Ads: Take Notice Of Why Apple Stopped Them ".
  1. David Weinbaum from DDNation , June 25, 2014 at 12:24 a.m.
    Apple reversed their position on incentivized video ads: http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/24/app-store-policy-of-rejecting-apps-with-rewarded-video-social-sharing-gets-rolled-back-with-a-few-caveats/ Incentivized video ads are the future and how the industry must see the industry evolving towards. Clearly, Apple now sees this as Techcrunch reports