Google has begun integrating interactive video ads from their most recent acquisition, AdMob, into apps on Android phones. Those of you with iPhones have probably already seen these ads, as they've been running on your device for some time now, but the rollout to Android is brand new. Some of the ads are interstitials and some are interactive video.
So what do these AdMob ads look like? Well, the screenshot in the Google Blog post features Angry Birds, an app I just happen to have on my Android phone. So I fired it up to see what the ads might look like, and sure enough, I got a full-screen interstitial-type ad while the game was loading. It was… a bit obtrusive. Here's the screenshot Google shared:
Even though I'm used to waiting several seconds for the game to load while I stare at the Angry Birds loading screen, the ad left me with the impression that it was delaying my game more than normal (even though it was not). I tend to take a pretty friendly attitude toward advertising when it's combined with free apps or services that I enjoy, because I know I'm getting it for free (as is the case with the Android Angry Birds app). So I was surprised to have such a negative knee-jerk reaction to the ads. It's definitely easier to tune out the standard Android app ad when it's just a bar across the bottom or the top of the game screen.
But the real interesting thing about AdMob is the interactive video ads—which I've yet to find on any of my apps in testing this morning. Because testing shows that such formats are much more acceptable to the user. Rather than just a flat and static graphic, these ads engage the viewer with video and the various options to interact with the ad.
And it may take a while for me to see one in the wild, as Google is only using them on select apps. According to the blog post:
"AdMob interstitial ads are reserved for developers of the most popular and engaging iOS and Android apps. These high value ad units can be placed at app-open or in-app and provide an additional option for premium publishers to effectively monetize their user base.”
In other words, you have to be part of the super-secret successful app club in order to be qualified to use the ads with your creation.
The AdMob units will recognize the user's device—screen resolution, connection speed, and screen size—on the fly, and serve ads optimized for that device's capabilities. And AdMob (and Google, by extension) can reach across multiple devices and carriers with the same platform and for a variety of mobile operating systems—whereas Apple's similar product, iAd, can only perform its ad-serving functions with iOS devices.
Have you seen any of these new ad units in action on your Android mobile device? Was your initial reaction similar to mine? Those of us who enjoy free apps on our smart phones are going to have to get used to advertising in one form or another—there's just no other way to sustain the free-app business model. Even though my initial reaction was negative, I'm still glad to see Google bringing more variety to the table. There is an ad format out there that will find the middle ground, pleasing advertisers with conversion rates while not offending users too much with placement or persistence. I firmly believe interactive video ads can be that ad format, and I look forward to seeing what develops moving forward.