Last week Apple unveiled a developer preview of its forthcoming iPhone 4.0 software. As expected, many new features were introduced but none of the others will have the impact of iAd, Apples’s mobile advertising venture.
As I watched the live event feed on Engadget, the significance of iAd didn’t hit right me right away. Perhaps the text plus photo stills just didn’t do it justice. I was impressed however with the sample ads Apple had produced for Toy Story 3, Nike and Target. At this point I was content to mentally file it under interesting and follow the news leading up to its release. Then I read a tweet from @TheRiseToTheTop’s David Garland who panned the strategy and suggested any online ads were doomed to fail. I disagreed. The debate was on. If you can call it a debate with a 140 character limit per rebuttal.
The potential for success of iAd lies in the logic behind the strategy. Search rules the desktop but in the mobile space, people use apps to access information. There’s an app for everything. What’s different about iAd is that it will be built right into the app you’re using. It doesn’t send you to a web page. Click on a small banner at the bottom of an app screen and the iAd will appear on its own full screen. Cancel the ad and you return to the app exactly where you left it, even if you were in the middle of a progressive activity like a game. Brilliant!
On Apple’s web site, iAd is described as “…a breakthrough mobile advertising platform from Apple. With it, apps can feature rich media ads that combine the emotion of TV with the interactivity of the web.” That nicely paraphrases what Steve Jobs spoke about on the iPhone 4.0 event video. Online advertising really hasn’t figured out how to deliver the emotion that can be created in a TV commercial. That’s the opportunity with iAd. If anyone was unsure as to how to go about producing the magic combo of interaction with emotion, Apple provided examples. The mock ads for Toy Story 3, Nike and Target were enlightening. The lines between advertising and entertainment are blurred. Madison Avenue should be inspired.
I’m already contemplating the possibilities for my own clients. For instance, some of the companies I work with are wine producers. A few are already exploring mobile app development. I’ve been concerned about the motivation for a consumer to use an app dedicated to promoting one marketer. There are successful apps for wine. Natalie MacLean’s NatDecants app is an excellent example. Wine producers would be far more likely to have their message viewed within a lifestyle app than have their own app downloaded. Producing an iAd should also be simpler than developing a standalone app.
On average, iPhone users spend 30 minutes per day in apps. That represents an opportunity to deliver 10 ads per person, per day. In total, Apple estimates this will reach 1 billion ad impressions per day. This is huge! Start planning your strategy now.