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Ads in iPhone/iPad games getting too intrusive?

Mobile ad networks like Transpera are serving up video ads in game apps. Will consumers tolerate them or find them irritating?

A Swiffer ad popping up in an iPad game. Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

The other day I downloaded Pik Pok's Flick Kick Field Goal Kickoff for the iPad. The description said something about it being a "free app of the day," so I thought I was getting a paid app for free.

Low and behold, after about 5 minutes of playing the game, a time out was called on the field, and a somewhat surreal video popped up on the screen advertising the Swiffer floor-cleaning system, complete with women in mud suits and Heart's "What About Love" playing in the background. (see the full ad here).

The video ad, which reminded me of something I'd get while watching a show on Hulu or a TV network site, came my way courtesy of a company called Transpera.

Transpera is based in San Francisco and not exactly transparent. It bills itself as the Attention Network, "fostering pure, undivided attention between consumers and brands, through interactive mobile video advertising." It claims that video ads on its premium ad network "consistently outperform mobile display, online display, and online video across all brand metrics, including lift in purchase intent."

I'm not sure how the Swiffer ad ended up in a football app or how I ended up being the target demographic for it. But there it was. And needless to say, since I'm writing this article, it got my attention. But I was a bit taken aback by how much it took over the game.

This is not the first video ad that's appeared in an app on a mobile device and there's long been talk of these types of "rich" ads becoming more prevalent on mobile platforms (plenty of Android games have ads). But I couldn't help but wonder how much of this sort of intrusion I was willing to tolerate in exchange for playing the game for free. For a casual game like Flick Kick Field Goal Kickoff, I don't think I'd actually be able to tolerate it. For a more substantial game that had natural pause points (i.e., levels), I could see it working better.

At this point, many games come in both an ad-supported version and a paid version that allows you to skip the ads. Sometimes the ad-free version only costs 99 cents, which seems like the way to go if you like the game and plan to play it a lot.

However, in the future, I could see major iPad games that combine a paid model with an ad-supported one to essentially subsidize the cost of the game for the consumer. That might allow developers to sink more money into developing the game without worrying that it wouldn't be able to find a big enough audience at a price like $12.99 or even $9.99 (the majority of apps are hard to sell in huge quantities at anything beyond $4.99).

What do you guys think? Are these video ads too intrusive? And how much are you willing to tolerate to play for free?

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