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Google has just pushed an important new update to their terms of services with a big focus on what is not allowed in terms of advertising and app promotion. This is going to have a big impact on the industry.

Google Play

We wanted to dig a little deeper and try to understand what this means for mobile native advertising (if you don’t know this growing trend, here is a possible definition). When everyone is taking a step at creating a more integrated ad experience, it is important to really bear those aspects in mind. Here is what we understood.

App Promotion
Apps published on Google Play may not directly or indirectly engage in or benefit from the following behavior:

  • Promotion via deceptive ads on websites, apps or other properties, including simulated system, service, or app notifications or alerts.
  • Promotion or install tactics which cause redirection to Google Play or the download of the app without informed user action.
  • Unsolicited promotion via SMS services.

It is your responsibility to ensure that no ad network or affiliate uses such methods to direct users to pages that make your app available for download.

What does that mean? 

Mobile native advertising will soon get a lot cleaner on Android and that a new generation on clean ad practices will be on the rise (assuming Google truly enforce those rules consistently and at scale). No more noisy, push ads, No more app icon installs on your home screen, No more ads with claims that do not correspond to the actual app to install, no more automated redirect to the play store without the user active consent, no more spam by SMS from apps who will use without permission your contact book.

Native ads should not escape those rules: the message should be honest and true, and they should not redirect to a download without explicit command from the user. They should offer the user a clear call to action. Understandable in his language.

What the text does not say but implies is that Native ads should be easily dismissed/ignored by the user if he wants to. If the user is forced in an ad (say a overlay) but has no way to close it except by downloading an app then this is a violation of the terms of service

Interstitial ads may only be displayed inside of the app they came with. Forcing the user to click on ads or submit personal information for advertising purposes in order to fully use an app is prohibited. A prominent and accessible target must be made available to users in any interstitial ad so they may dismiss the ad without penalty or inadvertent click-through.

Sure, that is true of interstitials but that is true of any full screen format, including videos (which play automatically and then can’t be stopped or closed while they play), or in-stream full screen ads which gets stuck in the browsing experience.

What this also means is that Ads should be clearly disclosed (the FTC is watching…) . It sounds obvious but some developers or ad networks are tempted to disguise ads in content without disclosing it. Here is a case we spotted where it is impossible to guess the content is actually an ad

NewImage

 

Ads must not simulate or impersonate the user interface of any app, or notification and warning elements of an operating system. It must be clear to the user which app each ad is associated with or implemented in

What does this mean?

Ads should look distinctive enough both from the app they’re in  (or other apps like in the example below) but also from the operating system user interface. Sure, native ads should blend in the user experience and live in harmony with the app where they are hosted. But they should not confuse the user and he should be instantly capable to understand an ad is not a piece of content.

Crappy Mobile Ads

Clarity can sure be made easier also if the ad section is clearly disclosed.

Here is an example below of what you don’t want to do….The ad is there…but there NO WAY to know this is an ad. Not only this is not disclosed (see above) but in addition the look and feel is so identical to the rest of the app that there is way to make a difference between content and paid sections.

 

Main Window

 

But it also means that ads should be clear about what they are about. Claiming “Download A free game, now” is considered as misleading (specially if the game is always free!) . Like in the example below

IPhoto

 

Finally there is also an important mention “Where the ads are implemented in”. It refers to some placements often considered “Native” like app walls which will display a number of apps disguised but undisclosed as advertising

What this means is that if your native ad format is an app wall you want to disclose it’s advertising and who operates it. In the example below there is no way to know those are ads and who runs them

Incentivized app walls android Google Search

 

Bottom Line: Be clean

Google make it clear. Don’t fool users around, Don’t fool publishers around, Don’t fool Google around.

Mobile enters in an era where advertising needs to be respectful of all the players in place. If you work with an ad network or an agency make sure you have enough transparency on how they operate, who they operate with. Ask them to be fully compliant, in writing,  with Google terms of services and don’t just believe them. Make sure you triple check every creative mechanism and publisher they are going to use.

Native advertising is a very buzzy word and many companies will hide behind it to do all kinds of things you may not be aware of. It is really hard to make things right and very easy to skip a detail that will make things go wrong.

Google said loud and clear “enough!”. Because of the nature of native ads which blend in the experience and the design it is even more important to be very aware of the terms of services and avoid getting trapped without knowing

We, at Appsfire, are committed to the best practices to our customers, users and publishers. And we’re glad Google took a step in the right direction.

  • iAmAttila

    Very nicely written article. Google is going too far, here’s the problem why.

    They enforce app developers to police/control the advertisements that marketers use to promote their apps to encourage installs and visibility. (I mean unless an app magically gets to the top of Play Store, how else will someone hear about it?)

    This is great, awesome!! YAY no more you have a virus ads!!! And in theory can be achieved by

    A) having the marketer show the developer what banner ads they will use to market the app and having developer only approve ones that comply with google policy

    B) having the developer provide the creatives and restrict that only those [creatives] be used to promote his app.

    no option C, or is there…?

    If the creative promotions violate the policies of Google, then the developer is at risk of having his/her app permanently removed/banned from App store. Sounds AMAZING on paper!

    However, lets be real – the world is full of dishonest marketers who will do whatever they can to game the system. There’s no way in hell the app developer can truly sleep worry free at night UNLESS the only app promotion he does is through Google Adwords platform. (Google won’t approve any ads that violate their own rules DUH!)

    Google knows this, knew this – and this is a very, very easy way for them to increase their revenues and stack on some more profits to please corporate America and their shareholders. Capitalism at work, do no evil, my @$$!

    If this is not a monopoly power play, I don’t know what is!