Mobile game marketers bribe consumers to view ads, says WSJ

According to a report by Mike Shields, Senior Editor at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), advertisers have turned towards bribery in order to get consumers to view their campaigns. Visibility of ads and engagement are an ongoing challenge for many marketers. Incentivised ads offer an alternative, giving customers something in return for their engagement.

Tapjoy is an ad and app monetisation platform offering incentivised in-game ads

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Source: tapjoy.com

The uptake of such ads has been particularly strong for mobile in-game adverts. Users are receiving rewards such as player life or coins for watching a video. Incentivised ads also work well with consumers looking for free items such as reward points and gift cards in exchange for their time.

Though previously considered less legitimate, incentivised advertising has gained traction as ad fraud is costing the US industry $1.25bn a year. Ads viewed by real people still represent greater value than ads viewed by bots.

However, there have been concerns over publishers such as Conde Nast, AOL and Entrepreneur.com listing their ads on sites such as Swagbucks, which rewards customers with gift cards and virtual currency for completing selected activities. Whilst Conde Nast argues that this form of advertising is “marketing to drive audiences to [its] content”, others aren’t quite as positive.

Gregg Colvin, COO, Universal McCann, says:

gregg colvin

“It’s definitely an issue. Personally, I want a truly qualified view, something organic where the viewer truly engages out of interest rather than some form of remuneration.”

Similarly, Sony’s streaming service Crackle has been using Zoombucks to increase viewership for its shows. Zoombucks has also been employed by streaming site Hulu, rewarding consumers to download its app.

For now, the majority of incentivised advertising is happening in game apps. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO, Jun Group, which says it provides such ads for 40% of the top 200 marketers, explains:

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“We see the value exchange [model] as perfect for mobile, where you just can’t afford to interrupt users. […] But we think rest of the industry will catch up to us.”

Others agree that exchange-based advertising is one of the major mobile marketing trends for 2016, as publishers search for new and reliable revenue streams faced with the problematic of ad blocking.

Despite doubts, Shields argues that the industry will need to adapt to the concept. Peter Horan, Digital Media investor and former CEO of IAC Media and Advertising, concludes:

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“Free media was never free, it was ad-supported. On the Web, the old broadcast push model is increasingly dysfunctional. I think a lot of the holier-than-thou crap is people’s natural resistance to change.”