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Google riles Android developers with native ad experiment

David Murphy
One of the offending banners

Google  is running the risk of upsetting some of its Android app developer publisher clients running AdMob ads in their apps. The issue surrounds an experiment Google is running to see how banner ads perform in a native express – Google’s term for native ads created using AdMob’s built-in design interface – placement.

One app developer who wished to remain anonymous contacted Mobile Marketing to complain about the recent appearance of “ugly image banners ads” in his “carefully designed native ad units.” When he raised the issue on an AdMob forum, Deepika Uragayala from AdMob’s Mobile Ads SDK Team replied: “AdMob is running a small network-wide experiment to see how banners perform in a native express placement. This will only affect a small subset of your native express app traffic for a short period of time while the experiment is running.”

We have asked Google for more information about the experiment, but have so far received no reply.

The developer, though, remains unhappy. He told us: “Admob native ads are mobile ads that are carefully designed by app developers that are expected to look beautiful and unintrusive in apps. When implemented well, it should not impact the overall app experience. However, Google Admob team ruins this by randomly choosing apps and mobile device users to serve ugly image banners ads in those native ad units, all without developer’s knowledge. The tactic would only scare developers away from Admob further.”

He added that while the issue only occurs on some devices, for the ones that are seeing it, banner ads are served for anywhere between 10 – 50 per cent of total impressions. The developer has traced the beginning of the experiment to either 30 November 2016, or 29 March 2017, based on the date of two separate posts from other developers on the AdMob forum, discussing issues with native express ad placements.

The developer has integrated the AdMob SDK into his app, which he says has several million monthly active users, but said he will not push the ad integration within the app until Google confirms that the experiment has ended “because those banner ads may significantly downgrade our app user’s experience.”

To rub salt into the wounds, he said his team had wasted several weeks debugging, searching and testing to resolve the issue without any success, because Google had not bothered to inform him, or other developers, about the experiment.

“I want other developers to become aware of this,” he said. “I also hope Google can end this experiment - it should not start from the beginning in my humble opinion as it's disrespectful of developers and users.”