Interview: Leadbolt CEO Dale Carr on Android’s push ad ban

Push notification ban
Google’s decision to ban push notification Android ads in September had big ramifications for the mobile ad industry, wiping out one of the most lucrative formats developers had ever seen. Later this week we will be publishing a full investigation into the ban, covering its impact on bottom lines, and looking at what new mobile ad solutions have arisen in its wake. But ahead of that article we’re publishing the following interview with the CEO of  Leadbolt, Dale Carr, asking his opinion on how the ad ban has affected the industry so far, whether Google was justified, and how Leadbolt has evolved its offerings to help developers transition. Check out the interview below, and make sure you check back soon for the full mobyaffiliates investigation.

Interview: Leadbolt CEO Dale Carr

Mobyaffiliates: First of all, can you tell us which Leadbolt formats were caught-up in the ban? What exactly had to go?
Dale Carr: The Google Play Developer Policy update impacted two of our suite of ad formats – Notification and App icon. It did not impact the other 8 ad formats we offer, nor any of the unique features within these formats.

Leadbolt CEO Dale Carr

Leadbolt CEO Dale Carr

Google did pre-warn developers giving them at least a month notice of the fact they were banning the out of app formats. We did however anticipate this as we saw developers and other companies and providers outside of our network abuse these formats and operate against what we saw as being reasonable. We have always maintained quality and seeing the abuse concerned us greatly but our control was only within the scope of our network. Others though pushed things to such extremes that it really left little option but for Google themselves to step in and work towards the good of the whole industry.
How badly has Google’s push notification ad ban affected Leadbolt? Was this a big part of your business? 
We offer 10 distinct ad formats and while notifications were a popular ad format, our developers have always been using a very broad array of our advertising options so the impact on us was limited. Fortunately the ban has actually helped us in further pushing our variety and differentiation and proving that we truly work for our customers in providing them with the most effective monetization solution come rain or shine.
How profitable were the banned ads for developers in your experience? 
Despite the criticism of these ads, they were a very effective marketing tool when implemented in such a way as not to disturb users during their app usage. Users then had the opportunity to review these ads when it was convenient for them, which meant much higher response rates and therefore higher returns for both developers and advertisers. ECPMs differed across regions etc, but averaged between $4-$7.
Opinions are split on the issue, but a number of devs we spoke to agree push notification ads were spammy and not welcomed by users. What’s Leadbolt’s take on this?
The media did push the notion of these ads as spammy, but I believe that was more due to uncontrolled networks in the industry allowing the developers to abuse this format. When you allow an application to push notifications too often or interrupt the user experience it will certainly be unwelcome and considered as spammy. On the other hand, if the message is very directed and focused and infrequent but delivers value to the end users, it will be appreciated.

“There were definitely some networks that were looking to maximize their short-term returns by pushing ads out very frequently.”

Imagine a user being informed of a new game on the store which is exactly what the user is interested in. Tell the user about it and let him/her “discover” something new and this person is excited; but keep on pushing useless messages that are irrelevant and the user becomes upset. As we practice the former, we have had very few complaints about notifications.
We were told some networks were encouraging devs to post push ads more frequently. Do you think networks share some responsibility in terms of spamming users with ads? Or was frequency totally up to the developers?
There were definitely some networks that were looking to maximize their short-term returns by pushing ads out very frequently. Networks share responsibility for enabling many types of campaign practices. The LeadBolt platform has always had frequency caps in place and also advanced functionality to ensure the best experience including such features as time zone adjustments to ensure notifications were not delivered while people were sleeping.

An example of Leadbolt's push notification ads

An example of Leadbolt’s push notification ads

Do you think Google’s decision to ban these ad types has ultimately hurt developers and the mobile ad industry in the long run?
The eco-system is continuously evolving and this is just another step in the evolution. Short-term, there may be some pain, but we are talking about some of the most innovative people who are at the cutting edge of technology. And in the long term, since Google Play couldn’t control the more aggressive networks, by banning the ads outright, they are ensuring a cleaner industry. This will be good for everyone.
 What are the alternative solutions Leadbolt has come up with to help devs make up lost revenue? How effective have these new solutions been?
leadbolt ad formats

Leadbolt’s new ad formats

Of course we have taken this opportunity to enhance some of our ad units in order to grab a larger share of the market. Some of these include:
•         Banner Ads – Now redesigned for optimal display and click through rates.  Updated style includes proven text optimizations and redesigned assets.
•         App Wall – HTML
•         App Wall – SDK – (In-Menu or On Screen)
•         In App Alerts
•         Interstitials
We have also redesigned and improved ads and tools as a result of the Google Play update:
Re-Engagement Tool
These are a powerful way to drive repeat app usage.  They are smart, multilingual messages delivered in the user’s local language (when supported). Users return to an app with ease by tapping on a branded design.
Exclusive LeadBolt Audio Ads with Interstitial
Effective at any stage of the App Usage Cycle – entry, engagement or exit stages – LeadBolt Audio Ads combine gyroscopic triggers for a full sensory experience.  An audio prompt encourages users to shake their device to access the marketing message.
Higher CTRs are achieved using Audio Ads than banner ads. For mobile advertising norms, average industry CTR is 1-2% (and standard banner ads
is < 1%), while LeadBolt’s avg CTR is > 5%.  Recent campaigns utilizing Audio Ads have exceeded CTR benchmark standards by 30% (percentage points).

Leadbolt’s floating ad format

These are LeadBolt’s latest ad format.  They are highly interactive, eye-catching and playful.  Three icon images encased in bubbles float on screen.  Users pop the bubble to reveal the ad message link.
Auto Scaling Display Ads to support multiple resolution devices
Interstitials, Overlays, In-App Alerts, Rich Media and App Walls will all automatically scale to display at optimal sizes on all screens and devices, ensuring the app experience is the same for all users. For publishers who prefer fixed size ad units, banner slots are still available in all existing sizes, allowing ads to be display ads in the exact sizes and positions required.
Ultra Smooth Ad Display Animation
For Interstitials, Overlays, In-App Alerts and Rich Media ad formats, improvements to the transition effect allows ads to smoothly slide on the screen from the side.  Ads will appear to be in-built as part of the flow of the app, without abrupt movements.
Improved Ad Serving Optimizations
Various ad serving optimizations and targeting improvements have been included in recent updates to LeadBolt’s ad serving technology, ensuring the highest performing and most suitable offers are displayed to the right users.
Has it been difficult to transition devs onto these new solutions? Are devs heading elsewhere?
LeadBolt is able to continue to support our developers with a breadth of new monetization options.   There’s a lifecycle on most products, and we are committed to continuing to innovate to satisfy the developers’ monetization needs while offering the user a positive, relevant experience.
Be sure to check back soon for mobyaffiliates full investigation in Google’s push notification ad ban and its ramifications for the mobile ad industry.

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