31 December 2013
Coal for Christmas: Hangtime, Crowdtilt, and MotionX

One’s Facebook feed brings untold delights, never more so than during the holidays. 

I’m not going to dignify these CPI (cost-per-install) app ads with too much comment, other than to say: you know better. 

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Like e-mail spam, these ads only exist because they work. If a profitable percentage of people didn’t open and click on spam, spam would stop, because it would cease to be viable. On some level we have only ourselves to blame.  And if thong-clad, delightfully topless women are exactly the people you don’t want to “miss out” on, then hey, there’s an app for that. 

But what gets me is how the ad’s content is misaligned with the app’s brand. Here’s one of Hangtime’s App Store screenshots:

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That contrast is bad marketing. The ad inaccurately conveys the underlying app’s purpose, and value. It misleads in order to convert.

Maybe we’re looking at a rogue user acquisition consultant’s dutiful work. Maybe we’re looking at the inevitable byproduct of so-called vanity metrics. Maybe our lust for users risks too much. Maybe it’s a race to the bottom.

Today sex sells more than ever:

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I’m not some puritan, some holier than thou marketing cop. But patterns come in three’s. I don’t like this pattern. This is me saying so.

You have to ask yourself, and you have to ask these companies: do you really want to rub virtual elbows with the kinds of people who are convinced to download and join via these ads? Is this the kind of user base you seek, full of people who download your app for the wrong reason? In this the kind of user base you want to join? 

Every day we use our disposable income and our disposable attention to vote for the way we want the world to be.

In MotionX’s case the ad’s image is much more subtle, but doesn’t that make it even worse, because it’s more obtuse, and less necessary?

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