When Do Application Advertisements Cross the Line?

With the huge demand for applications to be low-cost or free in the Android ecosystem, it can be difficult for developers and publishers to monetize from their work. A high quality application with hundreds of hours invested deserves adequate compensation, and in turn would help fund future high quality applications. Many low quality applications seek to makeup for the lack of invested hours by aggressively stacking advertising into each individual app. But where do we draw the line with advertising? How much advertising is really necessary for an application to make a profit? Do low quality applications deserve to net a larger profit by including many forms of advertising, or should they be limited in relation to the amount of effort and time invested?

It is not just the volume of advertising that may be the problem, but also the type of ads we may be presented with (many of which can be quite intrusive):

  • Banner and splashscreen ads
  • Push ad notifications
  • Dialtone ads
  • Postcall ads
  • Homescreen shortcuts
  • Browser bookmarks

Another significant issue is that currently many marketplaces do not require the developer/publisher to indicate or warn users that their applications may include some or all of these types of ads. Some ads (such as push notifications) may not even give the user a permission warning when installing the application. Many forms of advertising do not even take place within the application that is using them, causing frustration to users if the source is unknown.

Advertising certainly has its place amongst the forms of monetization available. At SlideME, it is not only our goal to help developers profit from their investment, but also to provide transparency and assurance to users. Our policy requires developers and publishers to disclose whether their applications have ads or not, and additionally they must now describe the forms of advertising used if beyond the traditional banner style. This requirement is a part of our approval process (outlined in the Help/FAQ here), where each application submitted to SlideME is scanned and tested to ensure its quality and safety before being published.

SlideME has also taken a stance on intrusive advertising in being the first marketplace to begin denying applications that use dialtone ads and postcall ads. We believe that a quality application does not need these intrusive forms of advertising, and users will benefit from knowing they will be receiving quality over greed. We hope that developers will begin improving the quality of their applications to increase their profits, rather than resorting to bundling more advertising into a single application.

What is your perspective on application advertising, as a developer and/or user? Do you feel advertising belongs only within the application in question, or is external advertising acceptable? What constitutes an intrusive ad in your opinion? Please post your own comments and ideas as we would like to hear your take on this controversial issue.

Careful not to overdo it with restrictions and control

Although too many ads are really frustrating for end-users, market places like you should be careful not to be very strict in the control that you impose on apps. The reason is that I believe that the end-user should be free to decide whether an app is acceptable or not (regarding the ads it shows). In my case, there are some apps that I keep although they have too much advertising (because I think they are useful) and others that I don't (because they don't deserve it).
However, I want to be able to decide, not someone else. An acceptable level of control from your side would be a)to inform the users about the type and number of ads in an app and b) enforce the responsibility to app developers to properly warn the end-users about that.