Apple Allegedly Buys Ads for Subscription-Based Apps to Collect More Commission [Updated]

Update: Apple has now said that the suggestion that it "secretly" or "quietly" buys ads for third-party apps is a mischaracterization. The company says that it regularly communicates with developers about the ads it runs on their behalf. See Apple's full clarification for more information.



Apple allegedly buys Google ads for popular subscription-based third-party apps to bolster its collection of commission on in-app purchases, according to an article by Forbes.

app store blue banner
Apple has purportedly been buying Google ads for subscription-based third-party apps, including HBO, Masterclass, Babbel, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Bumble, for at least two years. A marketer speaking to Forbes suggested that many of the brands Apple appears to be advertising for have been assertive about attempting to circumvent App Store policies. The ads are said to be placed without the developer's consent and Google apparently refuses to remove them.

The ads do not disclose that they are paid for by Apple, but redirect to the ‌App Store‌ rather than subscription sign-up pages on the brand's website. One source, speaking to Forbes, explained:

Apple is trying maximize the money they're making by driving in-app purchases that people buy through the Apple Store. Apple has figured out that they can make more money off these developers if they push people to the App Store to purchase there versus a web flow.

Ads encouraging users to subscribe to a service usually lead to pages that encourage users to sign up online, bypassing Apple's 15 or 30 percent in-app purchase fee and allowing the business to collect all of the subscription's revenue.

Google claims that it is not responsible for who buys ads on its platform. Google's ad policies allow companies to use another company's trademark if "primarily dedicated to selling (or clearly facilitating the sale of) products or services, components, replacement parts, or compatible products or services corresponding to the trademark."

There are apparently indications that Apple is hiring a single agency to place the ads since they each have "similar tracking links with near-identical parameters."

Forbes speculates that Apple's unsolicited ads are potentially losing some third-party apps millions of dollars in revenue and resulting in high customer acquisition and advertising costs for their own campaigns, since prices rise when multiple parties bid on the same ad slots. The practice amounts to "a form of ad arbitrage," according to Forbes.

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Top Rated Comments

gigatoaster Avatar
33 months ago
Incoming PR from Apple: but but we have given foods on the plate to 6 billions developers and we are saving the world. ?‍♂️
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wildkraut Avatar
33 months ago
More food for the antitrust authorities.

Well done Apple, good that your shady tactics are slowly showing up.
Not a single week without negative Apple news.
Yeah yeah, but privacy and does nobody care for the children?! ?
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
m.x Avatar
33 months ago
I [S]love[/S] admire Apple very much and I adore my new 14" MBP, but my god are they greedy with the App Store. It's like these are two different companies, on one side there are these amazing devices and on the other side there's abysmal treatment of developers and this penny-pinching - just to name a few things. In his recent The Talk Show episode, John Gruber quoted a friend of his with a quote which is so true: "Apple does one thing great: they make creative tools for people and sell them at a fair price that people will pay for it and everything else they do is - it ruins the good part of Apple. Everything else. It's corrupting.". I really would love to see them stepping back from the greed and their addiction to App Store revenue, but I think the only way they learn is when there is intervention from the outside.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DummyFool Avatar
33 months ago
A big tech company using shady tactics, what a surprise!
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wildkraut Avatar
33 months ago

I love Apple very much and I adore my new 14" MBP, but my god are they greedy with the App Store. It's like these are two different companies, on one side there are these amazing devices and on the other side there's abysmal treatment of developers and this penny-pinching - just to name a few things. In his recent The Talk Show episode, John Gruber quoted a friend of his with a quote which is so true: "Apple does one thing great: they make creative tools for people and sell them at a fair price that people will pay for it and everything else they do is - it ruins the good part of Apple. Everything else. It's corrupting.". I really would love to see them stepping back from the greed and their addiction to App Store revenue, but I think the only way they learn is when there is intervention from the outside.
I love my wife, my children and the rest my family, but would never love a company.
You know it's a one sided love, right? Okay they love your wallet, that's it! :)
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ?️ Avatar
33 months ago
Isn't this shady or what?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)