Sunday, March 12, 2017

Playable ads - a cynical response

This week, Microsoft announced support for playable ads for Windows apps.

I totally believe this is a good thing, but I have some cynical observations to the announcement. Some of you who read this will be aware of my cynical take on things and have even reported to liking my alternative points of view.

Let's look at some of the announcement:
"The information contained in the product description page is not always complete and the experience a user can get from the actual app usage can potentially differ a lot. This sometimes leads to a quick uninstall if the promise of the product description pages is not met."
Yes, some Product Detail Pages (PDPs) are not great. If they're "not complete" and not representative of the actual app, then something should be done about them as they are. Just adding playable versions of the app/game isn't necessarily the best solution.

"Playable Ads are a completely new way for end users to interact with ads and apps."
They're only "completely new" on Windows. They've been on other platforms for ages. (See a few iOS screenshots below.) It's good to see Windows/Microsoft catching up.




"the user can interact with the app as if it’s already installed on his/her device"
With some (almost guaranteed) exceptions and limitations which aren't mentioned here.

"Why are these ads better? - Users will not leave the current app context after ad click since these are inline expandable ads."
This doesn't make it better than another ad. This makes it better than leaving the app to try something. There's a debatable argument about who this is better for.

"Users who install the game after three minutes of engagement are more inclined to use the game/app than those who just installed the app based on the product description page."
I'm not 100% on this. It seems a strange argument. It appears to be that people who have tried an app will use it again once they've installed it. I can see that point, but it's arguing against people who have installed it but not tried it.
More interesting and compelling would be a comparison between people who install after seeing a static ad VS a playable ad. I'd totally expect someone who completes the playable ad to be more likely to install the app. How this compares to people who install after just seeing the PDP is interesting. I would have thought the aim was to get people interested enough to install. It seems to imply there's a significant drop-off after people install. Do lots of people really install the app but never launch it? It would be interesting to see some stats on this. If it really is an issue then yes, I'd believe that people are more likely to remember something they've installed if they've tried it before than something they just liked the look of from a PDP.
There's also the issue of what led a person to the PDP in the first place, but that's too big a tangent to explore now.

"we believe that users acquired via playable ads will have a higher life time value compared with users acquired through the regular channels."
App development and promotion are a business. We want facts and statistics, not untested beliefs.

"As an end developer, you don’t have to do anything! No new packages, nothing. Microsoft does all the background work to give a seamless experience to the end users without you, the developer, having to change anything."
It might be that for some apps you don't have to do anything to make this work, but that won't be the case with all apps. Even if you could implement this without having to do anything you probably don't want to. Remember back at the beginning when these were seen as a solution to incomplete PDPs? A successful, high-performing PDP takes lots of work and effort. If you're not prepared to put in any work to creating the best trial experience, then you can't expect them to be super successful for you.

Also, don't ignore that for some apps playable ads may not be appropriate or possible. If they are something that could work for your app, then give them a go. Just remember that there are no magic bullets. ;)


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