The Three Advertising Crimes Against App Users

Taking control from the user.

Preventing or obstructing access to content.

Serving low-quality or offensive ads.

These are the three crimes against app users we see on a daily basis. It’s time for an intervention: We need to admit our ad problem.

please fix your ad problem

You don’t see reviews like this in every app that serves ads. Users often expect ads in exchange for free access to content. 

You see reviews like this when ads disrupt or harm the user experience. 

The most common offenses are interruptive ads, obstructive ads and low-quality ads. 

Three Crimes Against App Users:

Obstructive Ads

Users know to expect ads in a free app. But, there is a threshold for the number of ads a user will accept before they become frustrated. This is especially true with pre-roll instream video ads that don’t allow users to skip or exit to access their content. 

Taking away the users’ control is the highest of high crimes against in-app experience:

Users grow extremely frustrated when they’re forced to watch ads that take more time than the content they’re trying to access. Especially when the ads are repetitive.

Practicing frequency capping to limit the number of ads a users sees per session and avoid showing repetitive creative is critical to avoiding reactions like these:

too many ads review 1
too many ads review 2

As a best practice, start with fewer ads and scale up to determine the optimal frequency of ads per session.

Interruptive Ads 

Interruptive ads disrupt the user journey within your app. They prevent the user from performing key functions. For example, ads take up the full screen, auto-play video with sound, or cover key elements on-screen. 

These reviews give you an idea of how the user feels about these types of ads:

Interruptive ads 1
Interruptive ads 2

Low-quality Ads 

Low-quality ads are often invisible to publishers – they can’t see what is happening and as a result they lose control over the experience they’re providing. Low-quality ads occur when content doesn’t load as intended. This can happen when creative isn’t properly categorized or sized, or when ads don’t load in time to be seen. When ads take too long to load, they can cause content to move up or down on the screen, making it more difficult for the user to consume content.

Few things frustrate users more than being slowed down:

low quality ad screen shot

Inappropriate ads are another form of low-quality ads. They don’t meet a publisher’s brand standards or voice. This can be ad content that’s inappropriate to your audience’s age or your app’s purpose, or ads that are generally offensive to your users. These ads often contain profanity or “adult” content but can also be as simple as an ad for fast food in a weight loss app. 


This can be extra frustrating when coupled with other criminal offenses:

inappropriate ads

Intervention Accomplished. Now What?

As you can see from the reviews above, the primary concern with these issues is the impact they have on user experience. Any one of these crimes can cause user churn and reduce time spent in the app, ultimately having a negative impact on your ability to generate revenue.

It’s also worth considering the damage they can do to the perception and reputation of your product. These ad problems are often attributed to poor quality, and your reviews in the app store will begin to reflect that. This can mean fewer installs on top of increased churn.

Better Advertising Gives Your Users a Better Experience

Ad monetization is a common and critical piece of a successful monetization strategy. Anything you introduce into your app should add value to your users, and short of that, at least not have a negative impact on the app experience. By fighting these crimes, you’re taking the right steps to protect your product, your users, and the bottom line.

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