I primarily use banner ads in my Android apps. They are typically unobtrusive and do not generate a lot of consumer backlash. However, I continue to investigate other types of ads that might be able to engage users (and increase the money I can earn from my apps). AdColony looked promising, but read on for a few reasons that it is not a good fit for my needs.
AdColony presents itself as a premier ad network for big-name brands to distribute their HD videos directly to devices. That sounds like a win for developers – big dollars from big brands means a high fill rate and hopefully a great eCPM.
If you’re not cynical by this point, however, I assume you haven’t actually dealt with ad networks before. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Ad credit bait and switch
To entice signing up, AdColony offers $10 of advertising credit. That’s just enough for a micro-campaign – maybe not enough to really boost your brand awareness or even get a lot of data to crunch, but enough to see the network in action. If it had good results, it might be a good way to improve awareness of my app (e.g. spend my own money to continue the campaign).
So, I took some time to understand the format required to make the ad, and I made a 15 second video for my Halloween app. A timely opportunity I thought. I created a campaign, set it to use the $10, and uploaded my video.
Fast forward three months, and my ad is still pending review. Halloween has come and gone. Good job guys. If this is your level of customer service, I’m not so sure I can expect a high fill rate if I request ads.
At the same time, I was diligently working to integrate the SDK into my app. I integrated their SDK into my app and got as far as testing on a physical device.
After running the flashy test video ad, I was unable to continue on to the next screen – touching any of the buttons at the end of the video caused the app to hang. If I press back before touching anything, I can exit the ad, but that’s not good. I presume that if no one can click through, I’d be incapable of earning a cent from showing the ads. That defeats the purpose of showing the video in the first place!
To their credit, AdColony support attempted to help me with the issue. However, their help simply consisted of asking for a stack trace (there was no exception, so that didn’t help) and then suggesting to try using different lifecycle methods to interact with the ad. The detailed technical information I provided (including the code I was using) was simply beyond what the technical support team was prepared to assist with.
After several hours of testing over a few days, I decided it was a waste of my time to investigate further.
A note on SDK version – I tested up through 1.9.11. At the time of writing this article, I see that 1.9.12 was released just a few weeks ago. I may test the new version to see if it fixes the bug I encountered, but the change log doesn’t list anything to give me hope. That doesn’t move AdColony any further up my list of priorities.
Time to move on
And with that… I don’t see the value in throwing more time into a black hole. I lost a number of hours dealing with the test ad campaign as well as attempting to get the buggy SDK to work. I’m willing to float ad networks a little credit to validate their claims, but all signs point to this not being a good network to use.
So, I don’t suggest working with AdColony if you are an independent developer. Large companies have the resources to burn getting a buggy SDK to work, but I certainly don’t. There’s a limit to the number of hours smaller development house can allocate to dealing with ads before it eats away all potential income from those ads.
My general rule is that trouble integrating an ad SDK is a warning sign, and should make you run the other way. Top-notch ad networks tend to make it easy to use their SDK. I’ve reviewed plenty of other ad networks on this blog and in the Android Ad Network Primer book that are easy to get set up with, so unless you have time to waste I suggest avoiding AdColony.