Latest Intrusive Advertising from XL Axiata Hits Twitter for Android

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Mobile telco XL Axiata is receiving complaints yet again for pushing intrusive advertising on its subscribers. The latest episode involves text ads being delivered on top of Twitter for Android.

While the company has been running the practice of intrusive advertising since 2013, this time, the telco is serving advertisement above an application’s navigation bar.

Twitter’s business lead for Indonesia Rick Mulia told AdDiction that “it doesn’t look like one of our products”. It certainly doesn’t as the appearance is very clumsy, badly placed, and forced to fit the space, which means that it is very likely the work of a third party and in this case, XL Axiata. The short code *123* is what the company uses for access to its SMS-based menu.

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The company has been aggressively pursuing alternative strategies to make up for the declining revenue from voice and SMS and it has identified digital channels as its primary approach. The decision to launch online marketplace Elevenia in partnership with South Korea’s SK Planet and the ramping up of AdReach, its mobile advertising unit, are clear evidence of that strategy.

However, AdDiction have received information from multiple sources that this may be the result of a co-operation between Twitter and XL Axiata.

One source said that he saw codes for in-app advertising outside of tweets in Twitter’s Android app back in 2013 but because it had no user interface and no way to display, he thought nothing of it, although we have since been told that this code no longer exists.

It’s not difficult for a telco to know what app is being used by any of its subscribers at any particular time and push the related text ad at that moment because telcos can monitor network activity.

As the ad is clearly a promotion for subscribers to use Twitter even more, it’s entirely possible that it is something that Twitter HQ is aware of and had not yet informed Rick Mulia about it.

There are two things at play here. One is the promotion, which Twitter very likely has full knowledge of, and the other is how the promotion is being announced to XL’s subscribers. Whether Twitter is fully briefed on this second part –and gave the green light to have a text ad placed over the app– is unknown.

Telcos typically would announce their promotions through SMS broadcast but using this latest method, it looks like XL is aiming for a more targeted approach even if it means forcing an unwanted, unexpected, and unpleasant experience in using the service.