Bell Canada has agreed to pay a $1.25-million penalty after the Competition Bureau learned that employees of the telecommunications giant had been downloading the company’s free apps and providing them with stellar reviews without disclosing their relationship to the company.
In addition to paying the “administrative monetary penalty” or AMP, Bell Canada has agreed to “enhance and maintain its corporate compliance program, with a specific focus on prohibiting the rating, ranking or reviewing of apps in app stores by employees and contractors.”
Bell Canada will also sponsor a workshop that will examined “Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, including the integrity of online reviews,” according to the consent agreement registered with the Competition Tribunal released Wednesday.
“I am pleased that Bell Canada demonstrated leadership to fully resolve the Competition Bureau’s concerns in this matter,” said John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition. “I commend the shared compliance approach taken by Bell to resolve this matter, which will benefit both consumers and the digital marketplace.”
According to the Competition Bureau, in November 2014, Bell employees were encouraged to download two free apps, MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account, from the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store. The apps allow Bell customers to control their accounts directly from their mobile devices. The employees were then encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings of the apps without disclosing that they work for Bell.
The Bureau said Bell had the reviews and ratings removed as soon as it became aware of the situation in December 2014. “Nevertheless, the Bureau determined that these reviews and ratings created the general impression that they were made by independent and impartial consumers and temporarily affected the overall star rating for the apps.”
Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP, a Toronto law firm that does a lot of work in Competition Law, reviewed the consent agreement — and gave it no stars. “A 10-month investigation and a $1.25-million fine seems disproportionate to Bell’s conduct, which involved its employees posting reviews of account management applications that are given away for free, and are only useful to existing Bell customers. No one was duped into paying money for a product that didn’t perform as advertised. We rate this one zero stars.”
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian PressBell
Operator Bell Canada will not “direct, encourage or incentivise” employees or contractors to rate, rank or review its mobile apps, after a probe by the country’s Competition Bureau.
The watchdog said that in November 2014, “certain Bell employees” were encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings for the MyBell Mobile and Virgin My Account apps on the App Store and Google Play, without revealing they worked for the company.
Acknowledging that Bell acted quickly when made aware of the issue, the Competition Bureau said that “these reviews and ratings created the general impression that they were made by independent and impartial consumers and temporarily affected the overall star ratings for the apps”.
In addition to focusing on its corporate compliance programme and an “administrative monetary penalty” of CAD1.25 million, Bell will also sponsor and host a workshop to “promote, discuss and enhance Canadians’ trust in the digital economy, including the integrity of online reviews”.
When you think of Instagram, you probably think of gaming.
Ok, perhaps not, but mobile gaming companies–which are among the most aggressive advertisers in mobile and social media–are quietly starting to embrace Instagram.
Traditionally known as a platform for fashion advertisers like Michael Kors and Burberry, Instagram opened its ad platform to more brands over the summer, including global advertisers last month. Among the new advertisers to join the photo-sharing social network are mobile game developers like Supercell, Gree, CrowdStar and Kabam.
These companies–skilled in enticing mobile app users to download addictive games to their phones–are having to tweak their more overt “play now!” messaging in order to fit in with Instagram’s unique aesthetic and user base.
Take Pocket Gems, which makes games like “Episode” and “War Dragons.” According to Aland Failde, director of product marketing, the company has long been a big advertiser on Facebook, and is “very performance-driven,” he said.
That’s true for most mobile gaming companies, who are known for being heavily data-driven both in their design and their ad strategy. They are not after brand building so much as hooking ‘whales,’ or players who will download games for free but end up spending lots of money in the games on extra lives, game options and access to special levels.
As such, mobile games are often known for being flashy–if not altogether garish–less the kind of images that might look appealing next to a warmly lit shot of an organic brunch.
But while Facebook has a history of being a place people play social games, “Instagram is fundamentally different,” said Mr. Failde. “People are there to consume content. And everyone on the platform is fundamentally a content creator. You have to come at if from a different angle.”
That means stepping up your creative game, said Mr. Failde. Instagram has historically been picky about the quality of its ads, particularly before it opened its business up to the masses. When Mr. Failde’s team started considering running Instagram ads in July, Instagram supplied Pocket Gems with “one of the biggest ad guidebooks I’ve ever seen,” he said.
So far though, Instagram is performing well for Pocket Gems, he said. “We’re definitely seeing positive return,” he said. One key learning to date: rather than pushing the competitive gaming aspects on prospective users, Pocket Gems found more success showcase a character kissing a prince in an ad.
One major factor in Instagram’s favor is that, because it’s part of Facebook, advertisers have access to the same back-end ad technology systems and targeting tools they use on Facebook, explained Shawn Conly, vice president of marketing at Gree, which has advertised the game “Knights and Dragons” on Instagram. It also doesn’t hurt that Instagram is still relatively uncharted territory for game advertisers, who perhaps are benefiting from a novelty factor.
Mr. Conly agreed that Instagram required a different creative approach–the best ads should feel like Instagram content, he said. Since jumping on Instagram early, Gree says people who end up visiting its Instagram profile pages convert at a 26% rate.
In fact, during a recent heavy ad blitz on Instagram on Sept. 26, Gree was able to deliver 12.6 million ad impressions in 28 hours, he said.
It’s too early to know whether Instagram can become the same kind of fertile field for app installations that Facebook is – so fertile thatthe importance of this ad category has come up on Facebook’s earnings calls. But the opportunity is large. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that the mobile app-install ad market in the U.S. will exceed $4.6 billion this year and jump to $6.8 billion by the end of 2019. Those figures include all mobile apps, not just games.
Of course, while it remains to be seen how receptive Instagram’s visuals-obsessed audience is to downloading apps like Supercell’s war-themed “Boom Beach,” some games may be tailor-made for the photo-sharing platform. Blair Ethington, senior vice president and general manager at CrowdStar, said the company has enjoyed early success advertising the game “Covet Fashion,” which lets players virtually shop for real life brands.
“If you look at Instagram, the platform works really well for fashion, and it’s a destination for our audience already,” she said.
Over the past two months, Crowdstar’s been achieving lower cost-per-install rates on Instagram than Facebook, she said, where she estimates mobile game advertisers can end up paying anywhere between $4 and $12 each time someone installs these games on their phone after seeing an ad.
Crowdstar has been spending $100,000 a day marketing the game on Instagram using custom audience targets, and plans on increasing that number significantly—while also testing video ads, Ms. Ethington added.
She agreed that Instagram requires a more deft creative touch, and that pushing game play was probably not the right approach. So Covet Fashion ads focus on visuals of outfits and eye-makeup. Her team has also been experimenting with using hashtags in its Instagram ads, such as #OOTD, or “outfit of the day.”
Ms. Ethington noted that while Instagram shows lots of promise, it’s early days. “Let’s see what happens in six months.”
Write to Mike Shields at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s unclear if Apple is setting a precedent, or has only accidentally allowed the approval of a new app, known as Been Choice, into the iTunes App Store. The app claims to block advertisements not only in mobile applications, but also in native mobile apps, including Facebook and even Apple’s own News application. To make this work, Been Choice offers a combination of a content blocker for Safari and a VPN service, the latter which allows it to filter out ad traffic using deep packet inspection.
Obviously, blocking ads in native applications could be disruptive to the primary way a number of mobile application developers make money today. So while Apple may be catering to consumers’ growing disgust with invasive and disruptive online advertisements by supporting ad-blocking technology in its newly released mobile operating system, iOS 9, it seems that allowing an app like Been Choice to actually block ads in native apps – and in particular, Apple’s own News app – goes against Apple’s own best interests.
In other words, time will tell whether Apple meant to allow such a thing or whether Been Choice getting the boot from the Apple App Store is only moments away. (Apple has not yet commented.)
The app is also concerning because it hides a paid surveys operation under the hood of an app promoting data privacy, which seems like a bad fit.
The oddly named Been Choice application was created by co-founders Dave Yoon and Sang Shin, who met at McKinsey & Co. and have worked together for more than eight years. Yoon was involved with marketing and marketing insights at McKinsey, while Shin has worked in technology for two decades, mostly in finance.
Yoon explains that the motivation behind Been Choice has to do with offering users a choice between ad blocking and sharing data in order to earn rewards. That is, users are compensated when they agree to share their behavioral data with advertisers, publishers and app developers. Those rewards come in the form of cash (via PayPal) for now, but the app promises that Amazon gift cards and the option to donate earnings are planned.
On the technical side, Been Choice offers two different settings related to ad blocking. One is the typical Safari Content blocker – like Crystal, 1Blocker, Purify, etc. (Users can enable ad blockers to eliminate ads from Safari during web browsing sessions — a new feature in iOS 9.)
The more extensive ad blocking is enabled by way of Been Choice’s VPN service. When it’s enabled for the first time, users will be prompted to install a profile on their device. If you’ve ever had to set up an iPhone to connect to your company’s network, you may be familiar with this process. When the VPN is enabled, traffic is then routed through Been Choice’s servers where it performs deep packet inspection on the content. It can then remove specific content – like ads – through pattern matching.
“While we inspect headers and the body, no user content is stored, and our filtering is done on the fly. This approach may be more familiar in its corporate form. For example, companies use deep packet inspection on their managed devices to ensure that sensitive information never leaves internal corporate networks,” explains Yoon.
This ability, the company claims, makes Been Choice the first to block ads in Facebook’s native iOS app. In addition, the app blocks ads in Pinterest, Pandora, Yahoo and the New York Times apps, among others. It also blocks sponsored posts, native ads, and pre-roll videos like those in news apps from CNN or CNBC, for example.
Surprisingly, Been Choice is also capable of blocking ads in Apple’s News app, as well:
Twitter, however, is not blocked because of its use of end-to-end encryption that makes it impossible to block ad traffic without blocking non-ad traffic.
The team believes that users should take more control over their data-sharing behavior, in order to understand the value of that data rather than blindly offering it up in exchange for creepily targeted ads. That’s fair, but typically mainstream technology adopters are more passive when it comes to things like this.
Installing, then enabling, a Safari ad blocker is one thing, but using a VPN service to wipe out ads across apps and then toggling between “block” and “earn” modes from time to time may be asking for too much user participation. (That’s if Been Choice even gets to stick around in the App Store after Apple sees what it’s up to!)
Even for those who feel comfortable with the technology aspects to Been Choice, the app itself needs better mechanisms to turn off or on the VPN. (Currently, you have to go to Settings –> General –> VPN then click the “i” next to the Been profile and disable “Connect on Demand.”)
Meanwhile, earning rewards takes time. You need 30,000 “points” to earn $20 via PayPal. Earning is time-based, not based on ads avoided, so you can earn 1,000 points per day by leaving the VPN enabled.
“Earning” Means Giving Up Your Personal Data…Even More Than With Traditional Ads
Finally, the Earn mode also offers other ways to gain rewards that make Been Choice seem more like a paid surveys operation, or competitor to something like SwagBucks. These types of companies are focused on users exchanging information with marketers in return for rewards.
The company, however, says it takes “reasonable steps to remove all personally identifiable information.” HMMM.
Still, when asked if users are actually sharing more data through Earn mode than when viewing ads, Yoon admitted that’s indeed the case.
“It’s absolutely more data. And that’s what we set out to build,” he explains.
“We think if you have consent from the user, and share economics with the user, you can gather better data. But the key question is consent,” Yoon continues.
“Today, it’s muddled and compromised. It’s an implicit agreement, and neither side benefits and both sides are left wanting more. More privacy and control on one side. More data and better data on the other. By providing a simple switch we are creating choice,” he says.
The Earn option creates a confusing paradigm for Been Choice. On the one hand, the app means to cater to those who don’t want ads anywhere – even in their native apps. Then, on the flip side, it’s hoping to reach those who are more than willing to sell their
souls data for cash.
These two demographics are wildly different, and it’s not likely the ad-blocking users will ever be willing to convert to “earners.” In fact, they’re probably going to be distrustful of any app that talks about user privacy, but then encourages you to give it up for some spare change.
[Update: Some readers are pointing out that VPN services have enabled this sort of ad blocking previously. That’s worth noting, but the difference is that these existed prior to iOS 9 and the release of Apple’s own iAd-infused News application. That the company would now allow an ad-blocking app/VPN service to actually cut into its own revenue stream is surprising.]
SnapNtalk is a fun and easy mobile application that enables users to add voice and text to their photos for iOS and Android devices.
SnapNtalk has so many fun and practical usages that you won’t ever be able to take a silent photo again!
San Francisco, Californa (PRWEB)September 21, 2015
SnapNtalk is a fun and easy way to add voice and text to photos. SnapNTalk makes every photo memorable and unique. Simply take a photo, record a voice or a sound and the image will come alive with the sound now connected to the photo. It is also easy to discover prerecorded sounds by browsing through the Soundboard categories, or you can find specific sounds by using the search function. parental locks Keep any voice recording or convert it to text; either way, the photo will speak for itself!
“SnapNtalk has so many fun and practical usages that it will be hard just to snap a silent photo,” said Brian Dolling, creator of SnapNtalk.
SnapNtalk will be available on iOS and Android devices and is a perfect addition to App Store libraries for the upcoming holiday season.
Examples for usage:
- Share that special image with friends and family and now include a personal voice message (great for birthdays and holidays)
- Never forget the day/time and reason for that special photo by having the image now tagged with voice or text
- Extremely useful and practical for those home renovation projects. Simply take an image of a renovation, add either voice and text and send to family members or any contractor working on the job.
- An excellent tool for sending images for insurance claims or any occasion when a photo requires an explanation.
For further information and the opportunity to share SnapNtalk images on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, please review the following links:
Apple is expected in coming days to release a mobile operating system that supports ad blocking in its web browser, and adland is having a meltdown about it. Executive after executive has told reporters about their concern for mobile advertising once Apple flips the switch. Ad blocking has gotten so much media attention that even Howard Stern recently talked about it on his show — declaring how “beautiful” it sounds.
Even if Apple’s new operating system did introduce much more powerful ad blocking to iPhones, the attention on its mobile web browser is largely misplaced. “The vast majority of activity is occurring in apps,” said Mr. Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group. About 90% of mobile content consumption happens in apps, Mr. satellite map Wieser said in a report this summer.
Apps account for about seven out of every eight minutes of media consumption on mobile devices, according to ComScore’s U.S. Mobile App Report.
Apps are a major part of everyday life for a large portion of the population. There are billions available across multiple app stores. How do you get yours to stand out? First, let’s start with an understanding of the current App Store landscape.
THE RICH GET RICHER
The biggest challenge to any app developer is visibility in the incredibly competitive space. There were 70 billion app downloads between 2008 and 2013, but over 50% of those downloads went to 0.1 percent of the available apps. The problem makes sense (show of hands: how many readers have Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter installed on their iPhones?), but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to overcome.
OPTIONS FOR DISCOVERY
App marketers have five main options for discovery:
1. Paid campaigns that enable e-commerce and push their products via organic and paid social media, AdWords, etc.
2. Distribution platforms that push apps with certain themes or mega portals (Android) to bypass app stores
3. Recommendation algorithms that tie app marketing to the information that consumers and their friends reveal online
4. Search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, YouTube) that scour the app store by topic and keywords
5. Search within App Stores
In this post, and in a follow-up post on App Store Optimization, we’ll focus on App Store search since 53 percent of app shoppers find apps by searching directly in the App Store for their device. You can increase the likelihood of yours being seen (and downloaded) using a process that’s very similar to SEO.
Note: it’s important to make the distinction between app store search and search engines; while you can absolutely benefit from organic discovery in search engines like Google and YouTube (pro tip: YouTube is hugely important, so make sure to create a video that enhances awareness and discovery), it’s a relatively small piece of the discovery pie.
SEARCH FUNCTIONALITY BY APP STORE
Just like other search engines, search functionality is different for each of the stores, and we’ve scored the different app stores based on how comprehensive their search is.
Google is the best at search (surprised?), and search is vitally important. The Google Play Store rankings are based on downloads and search criteria, implying that you can’t just rely on download volume to attain and keep top status.
Yet the search functionality in all app stores, including Google, leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, making changes to any of the ASO parameters (keywords, conversion optimization) is fairly difficult in the app stores, particularly with Apple’s. It’s best to try to nail it as well as you can the first time.
In a nutshell: the landscape of the different App Stores is… not great. You can definitely get by with effective App Store Optimization, but none of the stores are really built for you to have success right out of the box. Look for our next post, which will cover the basics of App Store Optimization!
App Promo and 3Q Digital are pleased to present a one hour webinar on Thursday September 17th from 2-3pm on the topic of #ASO is the new SEO -Tips and Tricks on Getting your Apps Discovered. Mark your calendars for this date and listen to Gary Yentin, CEO of App Promo and Craig Weinberg. Vice-President Mobile Strategy of 3Q Digital discuss the timely topic of #ASO.