Ad Banners Planted in the Activity Feed of Mobile Clients
In a bizarre example of non-customer focused thinking, Microsoft announced their intention to post banners in the Teams mobile app to tell users that they can connect to Teams for your personal life (aka Teams personal). The madcap plan, documented in message center post MC247825 on March 30, is due to roll out at the start of April. It’s another example of Microsoft attempting to create demand for their products from the captive Office 365 audience, just like suggesting to create a Teams DLP policy to sell more E5 licenses.
Apparently, this is the second attempt to send banners. Previously, Microsoft published MC216971 after Teams personal appeared in June 2020, saying “To inform users about the new productivity features and the ability to sign in with different accounts, we will show a banner in the activity feed for Teams mobile app users.” I can’t remember MC216971 and have no trace of it in my archive, but a Google search reveals its existence, so the post was sent to some tenants. No one appears to have made much fuss about banners then, perhaps because Teams personal was brand new and only available for mobile clients at the time. Given the general hype surrounding Teams personal, some marketing activity was expected. Nine months later, it’s different.
I understand that the Teams product group is eager for business users to add a personal account to their profile. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort to develop a separate instance of Teams suitable for personal use. But that’s no reason to push personal accounts down the throats of users. Instead, it smells a lot like a last-gasp effort to get some momentum behind an idea that never seemed likely to gain traction against the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook.
Contact Support and Waste Some Time
What’s really daft about the plan is the notion that tenants should contact Microsoft support to be excluded from seeing the banners. This makes absolutely no sense. Microsoft support will see a flood of tickets from tenants asking for an exclusion. It costs tenant administrators time to create a support incident and it costs Microsoft even more to process the tickets. Why Microsoft couldn’t build a simple opt-out switch into the Microsoft 365 admin center (or with PowerShell) is beyond me.
Better again, this kind of “experience” should always be opt-in as the last thing any tenant wants is for Microsoft to dump some unwanted ads into the activity feed of users.
Intune or Another MDM Solves the Banner Problem
MC247825 points tenants to a policy to restrict Teams mobile clients from adding accounts. Apparently, enabling the policy also blocks the banners. Sounds good, but the downside is that tenants need to deploy and configure a Mobile Device Management solution which supports the Managed App Configuration channel for iOS and the Android Enterprise channel. That’s so much simpler than running some PowerShell, but only if you’ve already deployed an MDM with the necessary characteristics.
Of course, not every tenant has deployed an MDM solution, which is why it is silly for Microsoft to assume that they can use an MDM as a get-out of jail card in this situation. Maybe there’s a subtle message here is that everyone should be using Intune.
Not the Right Approach
I don’t have a problem with Microsoft pushing banner ads to mobile clients – if allowed by tenants. Just because someone uses Teams does not grant Microsoft permission to hijack mobile communications to send what is essentially spam or unsolicited commercial mail. Microsoft throttles tenants if they even suspect that tenants misuse email. It would be good if Microsoft reflected on this tactic and how they seem to be abusing the privileged position they occupy as the supplier to over 115 million daily active users, many of which use mobile devices. It raises the question of just how desperate Microsoft is to support Teams Personal. Very, it seems.