How iAds will revolutionize advertising

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iAds will revolutionize online advertising, but are digital agencies up to the task?

We have been struggling in online advertising for more than a decade, and although this new medium provided unfettered access to information, the desire was to continue the tradition established by traditional media -- essentially making access to information remain relatively free.

Unfortunately, while the prospect of more individualized metrics enabled by the internet did come to fruition, it didn't translate into better advertising. Instead it reduced it to the "quantitative" in such a droll fashion that the majority of online advertising became reduced to "pinch the monkey," "squeeze the baby," "click here," "learn more," and "please click this fracking banner so I can justify my existence!"

For years, I have railed against banner ads online, I have illuminated the barriers to digital as an impactful medium for advertising, and I have chided our entire industry for being the uncreative lepers of advertising, slinging drivel at consumers. We are a medium that is neither immersive, experiential, nor adored by consumers.

The internet is not a medium -- devices that connect to it are the medium. The medium had always defined the ad model, until the internet. We have long been throwing stuff at the wall to see if it would stick, and unfortunately what did stick was abhorrent: banners, interstitials, inline advertising, spam. It all -- for lack of a better word -- sucks. Seriously though, we have reduced the consumer computer experience to the blinky blinky, click here, invasive tactics that only seek to take users away from the content they want, and it has neither been effective nor conscious of the consumer.

It was metrics -- what we could measure -- that drove the creative. And that, my friends, was where we went wrong.

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

What internet advertising did not do was deliver a format worthy of the various places it inhabits. In a magazine, the ads don't jump out and annoy me. But like an ADHD child pulling for attention, we created ad formats online that were bad, sometimes awful, and then codified them into standards.

It wasn't all our fault, though. The internet web page medium itself was fraught with so much freedom that it became like nailing Jell-O to a wall. And unfortunately for us, that has meant chaos in online advertising -- until the recent unveiling of Apple's iAd platform.

There have been a few glimmers of potential in internet advertising in the past. However, with iAds, for the first time the medium itself has presented a format that seeks to enable deeper communication. A format that can be immersive, integrated with rich metrics, and the benefit of context. It's a format that in many ways is more of an application than an ad. Here's why.

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Comments

Kathee Claudio
Kathee Claudio April 28, 2010 at 4:19 PM

"we created ad formats online that were bad, sometimes awful, and then codified them into standards" You are officially my new hero. Me? I'm an ex-cneter, ex-IAB member, and a lover of doing it better.

Colin Smith
Colin Smith April 27, 2010 at 5:24 PM

I don't mean, "who has the skill set," to develop the ads-- that's easy-- but rather, "who has the money to develop all of these ads," besides the biggest companies in the industry? I'm on the production end of content and we have advertisers who bristle at the notion of updating an ad from 2 years ago, that they've been running persistently for that long.

As always, the proof will be in the pudding, but I think that you have enough agencies with the old way of metric based thinking to say, well we got x number of impressions on $200 worth of creative and a couple grand a month of ad space on y site (that mind you is highly targeted) vs a few grand in creative to make a solid, experiential ad and then hoping to find placement among all of the other ads that will be competing for eyeballs on a phone/pad.

I just can't believe that a lot of smaller firms have a few thou to throw at a such a gamble on return. They may try it once, but they'll come back with their hand bitten.

I suppose it's always possible that you're speaking only of revolutionizing ads for large firms and I agree in that respect, it's just that the majority of companies are not large firms. "Dan's Window Washing, down on 3rd" will not have an iAd, nor will the boutique around the corner. This is where text ads,et. al. make sense and I believe, at least in the near future, will continue to reign supreme.

Sean X
Sean X April 27, 2010 at 1:20 PM

You make some valid point below in the comments, but I still believe, based on historical evidence, in my statements.

1. Consumers will not tolerate ads.
I disagree here strongly. Consumers "say" they do not want ads. What they tolerate is mind boggling in a single day in ad exposures. If an application is loaded with too many bad ads, then the consumer experience will be affected negatively, hence the application will get a bad rating, not appear in the top applications and slowly fade back. This format actually helps create the balance. Of course consumers will tolerate the advertising. I remember in 1995 when I saw the first banner ad on Wired, and everyone freaked out. It's all about a value exchange, and if the app is free consumers have little to bitch about... even though they will.

2. Budgets
At a billion ad opps a day it is not a format that will be ignored. Also, and here is the key point, not all advertising is equivocal. I would much rather do an iAd at the expense of almost ALL online banner advertising on the web. I believe it will be more impactful and immersive, and you have to understand one fundamental concept with what we do. "An impression is not an impression if it doesn't impress anyone." And we have long be mired in online banner advertising, which is heavily skewed toward the over 70% of clicks represented by only 12% of the population. It's just not doing the job. I'd take an iAd over an online banner ad any day of the week for impacting consumers. Q, E, V, CI (Quality, Efficiency, Volume, and Consideration Impact) are the only main measures we should be concerned with in online advertising. It is all about balancing them together. Yes, iAds do not have the V yet, but almost everything else they will be more impactful on.

3. As for Open or Closed, I believe in Open, however, in some cases the chaos generated by it does not help but hurt the medium as a certain point. The freedom of the web browser case in point. The chaos in the Andriod marketplace on different versions, dimensions makes development more difficult, as does the ability for developers to be compensated. This is the fundamental difference, the developers will reap 60% of ad revenues for iAds. Another question below is on who will develop iAds? Well, the 100,000 iPhone developers, and even more that know HTML5, and you're wondering who will be creating these ads? I think when we all get out of the myopic view that WE have a stranglehold on digital content for clients it ill be a rude awakening. Case in point Conde Naste who just opened their internal team to do external advertising, and Kenneth Cole is already using them for a project. My point is that unless online ad agencies jump on this format quick we will soon find ourselves the traditional agencies in this equation.

Colin Smith
Colin Smith April 27, 2010 at 11:02 AM

Hi Sean,

I have to agree with Alex on every point. Primarily, that I just don't see the iAd platform as being feasible for the majority of advertisers.

The fundamental question that presented itself when I saw the presentation was, "So, who is going to be developing all of these ads?"

Vanessa Saulsberry
Vanessa Saulsberry April 27, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Hey Sean,

Very interesting article. I will certainly share within my organization. How do you see the iAd helping marketers engage audiences in the publishing space?

alex avery
alex avery April 27, 2010 at 8:43 AM

Hi Sean,

I have lots of time for your opinions and I have an iPhone, but I have to disgree. If an advertising platform on mobiles is going to be a "game changer" such as you suggest iAds may be, surely it will be open source. I feel that iAds will not be "huge" for three reasons.

Firstly, consumers will not tolerate ads. They will not pay for Apps AND get bombarded by advertising. They will pay extra for Apps that don't have ads, and those that pay less or receive free Apps to face advertising, will be the wrong segment. Don't even start me on jailbroken phones.

Secondly, I see an issue of budget. Only a limited range of advertisers will have budget to develop ads for a specific platform such as iAds and push it through agencies or manage it directly themsleves.

Lastly, Apple has a long history of closed technology platforms. I don't see them "playing nice" with major agency bid management platforms, tracking technology and other mission critical factors that provide critical "ROI" metrics. No one is going to use a whole new set of metrics as you suggest - it's been hard enough to sell the idea of engagement. I don't think 50+ board members are going to buy some 'dwell time' metric. Sounds cool, but I don't buy it either.

Anyways, once again. Love your work. I'm just not the fan of my iBrick that you are.