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8 things every marketer should know about the iAd

Christina Goodman
8 things every marketer should know about the iAd Christina Goodman

For the last five years, industry observers have been heralding the "year of mobile." Yet at the end of each year, expectations around the channel's potential have not been realized. However, with the launch of the iAd last summer in the U.S. -- and more recently in the U.K. and France -- it looks as though we might finally be at the tipping point that unleashes mobile brand advertising's potential.

Of course, there's been a lot of speculation as to whether the Apple iAd can possibly merit its exorbitant price tag, and available case studies are still few and far between. Thus, given the hype around the iAd's potential in particular, and the opportunities of mobile marketing in general, this article explores eight things every marketer should know about the benefits and challenges of the iAd when determining whether it's right for their brands.

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iAds promise to provide a seamless, richer ad experience
First, the basics: The iAd is Apple's mobile advertising platform developed for any iOS device. This list currently includes iPhones, iPads, and the iPod Touch; but, of course, the list of devices could grow depending on Apple's product strategy. The iAd platform enables display ads to be served directly into applications. iAds provide a rich multimedia experience for users, and the advertising appears seamless within the application.

iAds are branded as such with an iAd logo on each banner. By branding the iAds, the hope is that consumers will pay more attention to these ads because they are brought to them by Apple, which promises to deliver a higher standard of advertising and ultimately a great experience.

The cool factor
There's no denying that Apple products have a cool factor associated with them. Thus, the brands that roll out iAds likely perceive a benefit in being part of a very leading edge, innovative marketing experience for users. Users can click and interact with the ad, find product information or store locations, and share content via social media sites like Twitter, all without having to leave the ad itself. While all of this existed in the past, Apple is bringing scale to rich multimedia mobile display advertising like never before. The iAd represents the current best practices in mobile marketing, all rolled together in a sexy package.

Raising the bar on mobile creative
By taking full advantage of the iOS device's key attributes (high-resolution screens, touch capabilities, gyroscope, etc.), a typical iAd boasts sharp interactive experiences connecting Apple users to brands. There is little doubt that these high-quality, well-produced ads will raise the bar in terms of the types of mobile ads people expect to see on their handsets.

Certainly access to the web has become possible anytime, anywhere, from multiple platforms, largely thanks to the improvement in mobile devices. This comes primarily within the high-end smartphone market, where fast mobile computing is becoming a reality. Marketers will look to take advantage of more mobile eyeballs and better mobile ad experiences.

iAds are good for mobile
If nothing else, the hype over Apple's iAd platform has brought more attention to not only in-app rich media advertising, but also the overall power of mobile as a branding medium. The awareness of opportunities around mobile advertising has increased as a result of the iAd launch, and this could help to bring some standardization to mobile rich media ad formats, including interactive and video ads, as predicted by Millward Brown's Futures Group in its 11 for 2011 white paper).

While mobile advertising continues to grow by leaps and bounds, total mobile ad spend is still small relative to the amount of money being spent in other media. Mobile advertising is still considered experimental -- a fact that will probably not change in 2011. However, we are seeing the average mobile buy increase tremendously, and the iAd is likely to accelerate that.

Cost considerations
As mentioned earlier, iAds are relatively expensive, which will prevent some marketers from trying them. Many marketers are unsure how to execute basic mobile campaigns, let alone high-end iAd campaigns. This is compounded by the fact that the mobile marketing landscape is becoming more complicated. Marketing choices now extend from the simplest SMS text messages to banner advertising on mobile websites to downloadable apps on the handset. When you combine this with the birth of mobile social media, with the likes of Foursquare and others, there are plenty of mobile marketing opportunities that might warrant experimentation before something as pricey as an iAd is thrown into the mix.

The return on an iAd investment
Research from Dynamic Logic that evaluated more than 100 mobile brand campaigns shows that mobile advertising can work to increase brand measures including awareness, brand favorability, and purchase intent (see image below). Yet there might be hesitation from brands to invest in mobile if they don't feel it will deliver as much return on their advertising investment as, perhaps, a more traditional media route would.

Certainly research and metrics might help the case of the iAd if Apple can show marketers what works and what doesn't. At present, though, marketers are left wondering whether iAds in particular deliver a positive return on investment. The case for mobile overall is better established.

Limited, but growing reach
Reach for mobile advertising in general is still not mass. And, more specifically for the iAd, not all consumers have an iPhone or Apple device. According to a recent study published by InfoWorld, smartphone users account for only 13 percent of all mobile devices in use worldwide, so total reach might still be small. Yet, smartphone users account for two-thirds of all mobile online traffic. In addition, IDC predicts that the worldwide smartphone market will grow 24.5 percent in 2011.

While Nokia remains the No. 1 mobile vendor, it is facing a serious threat from Android, which might end up dethroning Nokia's Symbian operating system. Apple -- with its continued focus on innovation, its new non-exclusivity stance with carriers, and a passionate customer base -- will open up a larger gap on Research in Motion (maker of BlackBerry). This is great news for marketers, as all of these new operating systems can deliver better mobile advertising experiences than what has been in vogue over the past three years.

App vs. WAP
Mainstream brands want to be associated with Apple due to the company's popularity and reputation among consumers. Advertisers hope that some of that reputation will rub off on them should they roll out an iAd. However, will consumers realize the difference in application-delivered ads by iAds compared to branded apps (which don't necessarily include advertising but yield strong brand associations)? And what about ads on WAP sites that people see while browsing on a mobile web browser? Do users recognize the difference or -- more importantly -- do they care?

The iAd offers integration with an application, and that can play to the brand's advantage. But in the end, relevancy is still key, and there are other opportunities to reach iPhone users beyond the iAd. Relevant branded apps that have a high degree of utility -- such as helping users with specific tasks like finding a recipe or creating a shopping list -- are an extremely powerful way to engage with consumers and provide them with a truly valuable brand experience.

Some of the most effective mobile campaigns are not just mobile campaigns; they include other media so that people are exposed to well-integrated campaign messages across multiple media touchpoints.

Having tested more than 110 mobile campaigns, Dynamic Logic has identified some commonalities among the best performers. In particular, to achieve increases in brand metrics, some best practices can be applied to create effective mobile advertising. These include:

  • Include the logo or brand name in each frame of the mobile ad to drive mobile ad awareness. Left-side brand placement looks to be a driver in mobile ad awareness.

  • Keep the mobile message simple. Don't include too many rotations in the mobile ads from frame to frame.

  • Be sure that the brand is intrinsically linked to the mobile ads, application, or iAd to achieve brand awareness. In other words, a person should know what the brand or product being advertised does after having looked at the ad.

  • Mobile ads with strong calls to action can build persuasion.

For more tips such as these, check out the white paper "What Makes for Successful Mobile Creative?" 

Research has shown wide variation among mobile campaigns and their brand performance. If the iAd wants to be among the top-performing ads, then the basic rules of advertising still apply. As for whether 2011 is the year for mobile -- well, we'll just have to wait and see.

Christina Goodman is director of digital solutions, Europe, at Millward Brown.

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