iAds: How Apple is putting more sheep in the walled garden

It has not been long since Apple’s acquisition of Quattro Wireless and their clamp-down on location-based mobile advertising. At the time many industry analysts questioned this decision and what it would do to the global volume of targetable location-based mobile advertising. Now it all makes sense with the announcement of Apple iAds, their new advertising platform for in-app advertising delivery.

As per usual, the industry has gone wild with the news of Apple’s new ad platform that will theoretically give Google a run for its money in this space, but is it really good news for advertisers and publishers?

Let’s look at publishers first. 

At the moment figures like 60% revenue share are floating around which is okay but not great.  There are ad networks that share a much higher percentage of revenue like InMobi  (who responded very cleverly to the iAds announcement ) and there are also ad networks like Admob who deliver rich iPhone ad experiences, and then there is Google, in my opinion the best ad network for connecting people with concepts. 

But the sheep-like mentality of Apple fanatics dictates that they must take a lower revenue-share for their inventory lest they risk thinking for themselves (or differently). Most sane publishers, however, would prefer the option to choose an ad network that returns the best results in terms of both the revenue and the integrity of the advertising. 

In the integrity category Apple will no-doubt provide peace-of-mind, but that is going to come at a cost to advertisers if Apple approve ads at anything like the same pace they approve apps. Advertisers need rapid response to the creation of campaigns and changes to the creative and the message. 

Historically, Apple have been slow to approve apps and there have been many questions raised about potential conflicts of interest in this area and there is no reason to assume this will be different for advertising – the clamp-down on location-based advertising is a case in point. 

In this area Apple’s standard fall-back is that it is in some way protecting the user-experience, but sometimes it simply looks like an abuse of power and the protection of its own interests.

The argument that Apple iAds is going to be more valuable to advertisers because it adds “emotion” to advertising is puzzling but let’s explore it a little.  If you exclude all the hype, what adding “emotion” to ads means is just that you don’t have to open the browser to see the end-point of an ad.  Make no mistakes – it’s still the browser doing the rendering.

If the idea of a full-screen ad is the ultimate intervention that will change the face of mobile advertising forever then I guess the job’s done and we can all go home.  Somehow I don’t think that showing a 12-year-old a pretty-looking life insurance ad is going to make any difference at all.  The concept of relevance is still relevant; otherwise Google could not make a killing delivering those ugly text ads.

Rest assured, in marketing excos around the world the full-screen Apple ad will make managers wet their pants because they still think TV ads are cool.  It’s the poor line-manager down the hierarchy who has to answer to the campaign performance questions who will be feeling the heat.   

There is a bigger picture that I will probably be accused of missing.  Maybe that bigger picture is that advertisers will be able to embed transactional functionality in their ad pop-ups.  Well, that’s nothing new.  We (the developing markets and Western Europe) have had that for a long time.

Maybe removing the pop-up will make people click more ads even if they are less relevant. I doubt it.  Maybe advertising agencies will embrace it simply because it’s Apple and that’s the logo they have been staring at for decades. Most likely.   



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