Tag Archives: advertising

Dropbox Referrals with Google Adwords

I read a tweet from someone a while back about how they used Google Adwords to max out their Dropbox referral disk space. I thought this was a clever hack and decided to try it for myself. I made a new Adwords account and entered a coupon code from Dreamhost for $75 in free Adwords money.

I ran into a few issues with my first ads. They were running okay in the beginning, but were getting shot down in the review process for trademark issues. I couldn’t figure out why this was the case, since I had seen multiple blog posts describing how to set up the ads with no mention of trademark issues. I tried a few tweaks, and removed “Mac” from the copy of my ads, thinking that the word might have triggered the trademark issue.

The first set of ads without “Mac” in them ended up getting approved, and I was on the fast track to Dropbox space gluttony. Here’s a screenshot of what my campaign looked like (until I stopped it because I maxed out on referrals):

Things looked like smooth sailing and I think I only used something like $20 worth of credit (though I could’ve easily optimized for spend, I kinda wanted to finish more quickly, so I set my cpcs aggressively). I was gonna change the ads and open it up for friends to get referral space, too.

Then yesterday, with no warning, I got an email that my account had been suspended. There wasn’t really any good explanation for this. When I look at my account, it says:

Your Google AdWords account has been permanently suspended for repeated violation of AdWords or Landing Page and Site policies in this or a related account.


Your Google AdWords account has been permanently suspended because your billing information in this or a related account could not be verified.

I’m not sure I could come up with a more vague message. So far, Google Adwords email support has been of no use at all. I first got an email saying they were “escalating” the matter, which probably just means they didn’t get around to it within 24 hours so they had to send something, then I got a generic form email saying that:

After reviewing your account, it has come to our attention that your Google AdWords accounts do not comply with our Terms and Conditions. As a result, your account, and any related accounts you may have created, have been suspended, and your ads will no longer run on Google.

Well no shit, that really doesn’t tell me anything new! The best tidbit of the email was that:

– For privacy reasons, AdWords Support is unable to provide any additional information regarding this account.

You know, in case I find something out about myself that I didn’t know… It’s my account!

If I did something wrong to get banned, I sure would like to know why. Since I don’t, I feel like I’m in the customer support limbo that is synonymous with “Google Support” which is already an oxymoron of sorts.

Anyway, TL;DR I used Adwords to max out my Dropbox referrals like many have before, got the banhammer from Google and now their customer support is atrocious (as expected).

What Happened to Yahoo (and What Could Happen to iAd)

I recently read an essay by Paul Graham on what happened to Yahoo. In it, he describes how Yahoo acted like a media company when it was really technology company, and how funky management made it into what it is today. One quote struck me as relevant today:

By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto Ponzi scheme. Investors were excited about the Internet. One reason they were excited was Yahoo’s revenue growth. So they invested in new Internet startups. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. Which caused yet more revenue growth for Yahoo, and further convinced investors the Internet was worth investing in. When I realized this one day, sitting in my cubicle, I jumped up like Archimedes in his bathtub, except instead of “Eureka!” I was shouting “Sell!”

Having just integrated iAd into one of my iPhone apps I’ve noticed that pretty much all of the ads are for other apps. Most of these apps are “free,” and I assume that they could potentially be using iAd for revenue as well. This is a result of low fill rates for iAd and Apple wanting to offer developers a way to advertise their apps. It makes sense, but one has to wonder exactly where all the money is eventually going (Apple gets a 40% cut of iAd revenue), and who has the incentive to keep that system running.

A while ago I wrote my predictions for iAd. I didn’t foresee Apple opening iAds up to developers who wanted to advertise their apps. That’ll help the fill rate, but I can’t see it helping CPMs when developers have something like a $0.25 CPC and it was reported that the larger media campaigns like Dove were closer to $2 CPC. Seems like another race to the bottom, just like paid app prices.

Thoughts and Predictions on Apple’s iAd Platform

After reading this article on the upcoming iAd release, I have a few thoughts on the future of Apple’s mobile advertising platform.

iAds on Apple devices will be rich media experiences, they’ll stay in the app, and they’ll make developers tons of money. That’s what Apple assumes, at least. The major takeaways from this article are that only a limited number of advertisers are signing on at first, and at a really high premium. What’s more, iAds are costly to “develop” which will limit the number of advertisers at first.

Advertising relies on a steady supply of supply (advertising inventory) and demand (ad impressions). The advertisers supply the… well, supply, and the developers handle the demand by providing users who will see the ads. Because there’s not much supply yet, and because I have a feeling many developers will integrate iAds into their apps or already have, I predict a few things happening:

Users will go through a high degree of ad fatigue. With only a few different ads available, users will probably get bored of the same ads over and over. Sure, they’re rich and interactive, but if I see that same Toy Story 3 ad a billion times, it won’t be effective anymore. This will probably contribute to iAd blindness.

Initial advertisers will pay a premium for being first. Because of the limited inventory and abundant number of impressions, advertisers will probably end up using up a lot of their inventory. Apple might have a way of throttling ad impressions so they remain constant throughout a time period (or at least they should). If so, iAd display will be pretty erratic. Sometimes they’ll show and sometimes they won’t. Of course, if that happens, publishers will be upset that their placements aren’t selling.

Publishers (developers) will make some money, but not as much as they thought (at first). Or at least, not until the ad inventory goes up. Because Apple will probably throttle the advertisements going to them, or users will be weary of the same ads showing up, publishers will suffer at first. In the long run, publishers will probably end up making more when the supply and demand issues fix themselves.

Advertisements will probably start off being innovative, then fall in quality. I have a feeling they will mirror the app store apps. There will be many high quality ads at first, but once Apple requires a steady amount of rich ads, others will develop iAds for advertisers. The ad inventory quality will suffer because of the cost and time associated with creating high quality ads.

On a high level, I see a few early issues in the iAd platform, mostly the demand for ads outweighing the amount of initial advertisements. Over time, this will correct itself, but at the cost of the quality of ads delivered. Think of how the App Store degenerated into crappy mirror apps, etc. Apple would like to keep the quality of their ads high, but I can’t see this happening based on the number of ads they need to deliver.

This will happen because Apple is offering the iAd platform to all publishers (developers). If they had hand-picked a few to beta test, I have a feeling the supply and demand would match up. Apple knows they’re behind in the game though, so that’s probably why they’re releasing it to all developers. In the long run, I think the iAd platform will be a hit for advertisers and developers. Hopefully the level of ad quality doesn’t suffer so much that it affects the end user too much.