Will the “Contains Ads” Label Change Your Android Monetization Strategy?

By Tameka Kee
Wednesday, July 13, 2016 / 2 min read

Google rolled out a small update to the Play Store a few months ago, but it could change the way that mobile developers integrate ads in the long run. By labelling the apps that include ads, Google makes two things clear:

  • Advertising plays a core role in the mobile app ecosystem
  • Developers need to get more creative and user-centric when it comes to ad integration

Both messages have positive implications for Android users and app developers, but they do raise the question of whether developers think their current ad integrations deliver the most fun, engrossing or intuitive user experiences possible.

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How we got here

Google started asking developers to use the Google Play Developer Console to indicate whether their apps contained ads last April. Family-friendly apps got the labels first (along with the warning that they included IAP), but more recently, the “contains ads” label has been spotted on apps across age groups, genres and countries.

The labelling is currently inconsistent — it doesn’t always show up if you look at the same app on one device vs. another — but it clearly demonstrates Google’s commitment to being transparent with Android users. According to Fyber COO Janis Zech, it also “reinforces the company’s hard stance against ad-blocking, while making it clear that ads can be an integral part of the mobile app experience.”

[It’s as if] Google is saying ‘If you don’t want to see ads, don’t download these apps. But don’t use ad-blockers that ultimately change the way developers meant for you to experience this.

Is it time to step up your ad integrations?

For Android users, the “contains ads” label gives them one more feature to consider when deciding whether to download an app. For developers monetizing with ads, this new label could mean reconsidering whether your current ad integrations really do help create an immersive, user-friendly experience with your app.  

Most developers will maintain that they put the user experience first — but read through the reviews of hundreds of apps in the Play Store and it’s clear that sometimes the focus is on monetization at the expense of user’s time and attention. (This is what has led to the increased interest in mobile ad-blocking). With the new labels, Google is challenging Android developers to be more creative and user-friendly when it comes to ad integration.  

That means moving away from intrusive formats at too high a frequency, toward more careful integrations — including native ads and custom experiences like the Washington Post’s pre-cached “Fuse” ads, as well as opt-in and rewarded formats that actually add value to the user experience.

Google vs. Apple (or Android vs. iOS)

On an even more macro level, Google’s move is just the latest example of the fundamental differences between the two dominant mobile app development and distribution platforms. As Janis notes: “With its ban on ad-blockers and labelling of ads in apps, Google is affirming that ads have a place in the mobile app ecosystem — at least for Android.”  

Coming from an advertising-driven company, that message shouldn’t be a surprise to either developers or users.

On the other hand, iAd — Apple’s own foray into mobile ads — is largely considered a failure. That, in combination with the company’s allowance of ad-blockers, makes Apple’s POV on ads for mobile app monetization far less clear.

So what’s your verdict? Is the Play Store’s “contains ads” label causing you to re-think your ad integration strategy?

Fyber’s expert Monetization & Growth team works to help companies like Cosi Games integrate their ads in a way that feels natural to users. See examples in this interview or reach out to our team at [email protected].