The Homegrown Ad Network

CASCADES / 09.05.13 / gbeuk

There is a tremendous number of amazing BlackBerry 10 applications available for download from BlackBerry World. You know it, I know it, my Z10 definitely knows it, so how do you let your users know what apps you think they should try out? Advertise! As it stands today, the official advertising SDK does not have the ability to display house advertisements. House ads are created by the developer/vendor and typically displayed when no advertisement is provided by the official ad service. As you could imagine, this is a pretty big feature with some very interesting opportunities.

When I was attending BlackBerry Jam Americas back in May I met up with Brian Scheirer, a developer of some very popular BlackBerry 10 apps, who showed me an app of his where he implemented his own “house ad” service on the device. Brian is friends with several other BlackBerry 10 developers, so why not collaborate between devs and promote each other’s apps? This advertising idea is what I used as the basis for my latest sample built using Cascades: the Homegrown Ad Net.

Garett's Horrible Calculator

It’s really not a nice looking calculator…

The sample includes a few files that make up the control, which acts as the advertising banner. By taking these files and adding in your own advertisements you now have a completely local ad service! At the moment the sample control can take images (PNG or animated GIF) with targets being either web pages or BlackBerry World, and all modification of what images are displayed is controlled by a simple XML file. Just add some advert images to the /assets directory, update that file with the image name, URL or app content ID, and then add the control to your app. As the developer you have full control in knowing what is displayed, at what size, and when a user clicks an ad. Link this functionality with some analytics and you’ve got a great way to determine which ads are garnering the most user attention. You can then tweak the ads themselves or their targets to make them more appealing.

To help you stock up your advertising inventory, I have started a forum thread where you can share your advertising creative (images) with the community and also grab other ads posted from your fellow BlackBerry 10 developers. This is an entirely community-driven ad service, so the more you contribute and share, the more others are likely to do the same, and the better the service should become for all developers.

A few things to note about this sample:

  • This control is not meant as a replacement for the official ad service; it is merely an alternative that may work for some cases.
  • Conversion rate cannot be directly measured. You are unable to determine for certain how many users clicking an ad resulted in actual app downloads. But, you could perform some baselining to see if the number of downloads increases after you begin advertising, and attribute those to the service.
  • This sample currently only supports applications and URLs, though additional functionality could be added (for example, click to BBM). If you have ideas on what features should be added next, please let me know by commenting on this article or firing me a tweet.

The Homegrown Ad Net sample on GitHub can be found here. I look forward to seeing some collaboration happening in the forum soon!

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