Will Google’s Android ad policy changes impact native mobile ads?

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Google has updated its Google Play Developer Program Policy to include a new section on “App Promotion” and an amendment to its ad policy, which could limit possible types of native mobile ad units.

In an email sent out to developers, Google said it wants to provide “guidance on what app promotion tactics are disallowed when promoting your app on Play.” In the email, Google added that all advertising must be “properly attributed to, or clearly presented in context with the app it came along with.”

Here’s the full section on app promotion that’s been added to the policy:

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.

Google also made an addition to its Ads Policy section, which reads as follows:

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.

None of these changes are likely to cause the same kerfuffle as Google’s push notification ban last year (few will defend the deceptive practice of tricking users into downloading apps via simulating alerts or notifications). But the last amendment, describing ads that “simulate or impersonate the user interface of any app” could certainly have a bearing on native mobile ad units.

In case you didn’t know, mobile native ads are often cited as the future of mobile advertising, as they are designed to integrate seamlessly into the app experience – rather than just float on top of the interface like a banner. There are already “more games” or “more apps” buttons that effectively mimic an app’s menu system, before linking to an app wall or something else. Will these types of native ads fall foul of Google’s new policy and will future native ad units need to pull back from too much integration? We’ll have to wait and see.