The iAd: Apple gets in the mobile ad game

Canadian media experts weigh in with their predictions for how Apple's new rich-media mobile ad functionality will influence the mobile advertising landscape.

Let’s face it: It really takes a marketing whiz like Steve Jobs to get the general public talking about about the debut of a new digital ad unit.

The Apple CEO unveiled the company’s entry into the mobile advertising world last week, using Nike and Toy Story 3 mobile ads (see demos below) to illustrate the capabilities of the new iAd mobile advertising platform. Running on HTML 5 (as opposed to Adobe’s Flash) the new ad unit will roll out this summer with the the new iPhone OS 4. The new OS will allow users to multi-task on the phone, which means that users will be able to click on an in-app for a rich-media experience without leaving the app itself. Developers will get 60% of revenue from in-app ads, while Apple will handle sales and inventory. To get in the ad sales game, the brand acquired US mobile ad network Quattro Wireless last year.

What will it mean for mobile advertising here in Canada? We asked four experts for their predictions on how the flashy new format will influence the market.

Paul Burns, VP digital, Canwest Broadcasting

‘Mobile advertising has had some really strong momentum over the past few years but has been lacking in scale, creative possibilities and meaningful location-based targeting. Better devices launching in market equal better creative opportunities for advertisers. This idea, coupled with the notion that more people will be accessing the internet through a mobile device than a PC by 2014, suggests a ripe opportunity for growth.

‘The iAd is really nothing more than a new ad unit, but perhaps the bigger news here is that Steve Jobs himself has pulled out a rousing endorsement of the medium and the potential. I think most people will take note of this and begin incorporating mobile advertising into their planning for the next fiscal.

‘My prediction: There’s likely a far more robust roadmap ahead, so marketers should get ready for this creatively and strategically. Mobile has the potential to be a powerful medium for reaching and engaging audiences in ways they haven’t even thought of yet.’

Chris Williams, managing director, Media Contacts

‘The success of the iAd mobile ad network is hard to predict. One of the hurdles with a new format, HTML 5 instead of Flash, is the limits of the production budget. If we need to spend the money to produce the ad, the audience has to be there, they have to be worth reaching and we must be able to target them.

‘So if we go ahead and produce the ad, we need a solid reporting engine similar to the way Facebook has produced a game-changer for reporting. However, the trend is to understand reporting from an ‘inter-media’ usage perspective: for example, how does TV affect search? So one of the big questions is how can we agencies integrate iAd reporting along with other ad-serving and web analytics data.

‘On the positive side, the iPhone audience is big and has good demographics. The hurdles I have mentioned are all short term; people will try it anyway. What is unknown is the consumer response to the ads. No doubt, however, there will be some award-winning ads that create enough buzz and ROI to carry us through the early-adopter phase.’

Adrian Schauer, managing partner, Vortex Mobile

‘I’ve been expecting this announcement ever since Apple’s Quattro acquisition. When you look at the effort that Apple goes through to review and approve tens of thousands of free apps that earn them no direct return, it makes perfect sense for Apple to want to monetize these apps through advertising.

‘If I were an iPhone app developer in the basement, I’d be thrilled with the iAd as a way to monetize my apps. For one, you know that the quality of ads will be better than what comes through most CPA ad networks since the iAd is associated with the Apple brand. Secondly, the scale that Apple will have – one billion impressions per day – will be enough to allow sophisticated content, geographical and perhaps behavioural targeting, meaning that ads will be more valuable and thus a higher revenue share will accrue to the developer.

‘What will be really interesting to see is how much personal information on their customers Apple will use to target ads. We’ve all been worried about Google and Facebook and how much they know about us, what about Apple, who knows every song, app and TV show I’ve downloaded?

‘I think this will be enormously disruptive to the mobile advertising industry. Vortex Mobile will be encouraging its clients to trial iAds as soon as they are available.’

Peter Vaz, VP and director, digital communications, M2 Universal Digital

‘Having an additional venue through iAd will provide advertisers access to applications that have grown in popularity and have had limitations in terms of what can be done to date. It will also help the growth of the mobile platform as an advertising medium in the digital mix now that Apple is behind it.
And the tasteful brand integrations as shown in the Toy Story and Nike examples should offer value to consumers exposed to the messaging.’