iAd is just a second-rate widget
Calling iAd creations "advertisements" is misleading. iAd advertisements are, in reality, widgets. I presume Apple doesn't want to call them widgets because the term feels a little sour -- we've learned that effective marketing widgets are hard to find. Would anyone be so excited if Apple had said it supported a new widget technology? You can do wonderful things with iAd, just as you can with any widget, but consumer responses have shown good widget penetration is extremely hard to achieve. Widgets that succeed provide services, so the iAd isn't really an advertising system so much as a system for sponsored service delivery.
Widgets have their place, but we already know they can't replace all other forms of online marketing. How many times have you asked yourself : "Should I deploy a banner ad or a widget here?" -- that's how often iAd will provide a viable alternative to banner advertising.
iAds can be created in Objective-C and/or HTML 5. Objective-C is a difficult and cumbersome language. It runs at one-third the speed of C++, and has a poor reputation with C developers. A number of development agencies have announced they will not produce iPhone apps because Objective-C is not a cost-effective development platform. Unfortunately, HTML 5 is merely an idea, not a reality. Keeping HTML 5 iAd widgets alive over the next few years is almost certainly going to require frequent re-coding. As HTML 5 is developed Apple will need to change browsers to support each step. Consumers will not upgrade at a consistent rate, so this will lead to the development of different versions of the same iAd widget for each permutation of HTML 5 deployed by Apple. This will significantly increase the cost of development and reduce the potential ROI. Thus, from a developer perspective, iAd is not an attractive platform.
Apple dictates -- you obey
When he announced the iAd, Steve Jobs said he didn't want advertisers to segment the iPhone audience. He didn't want behavioral targeting, demographic analysis, or other forms of segmentation. He said he wanted advertisers to treat the community of iPhone users as a single demographic. All the advertising people I have spoken to don't see this as realistic.
As Ian Wolfman, CMO of IMC2, pointed out, simply selecting the apps you'll put iAd widgets into is already segmenting to some degree. However, in the longer term, he doesn't see how agencies can make convincing arguments to clients for iAd campaigns if they can't segment their deliveries.
In order to help control this space, and prevent segmentation, Apple will not allow any third party measurement of iAds. Apple has announced it will provide 15 standardized metrics, which it will gather and report for you. If those metrics don't suit your needs -- too bad. This also means you have to trust Apple when it takes its 40 percent cut of iAd revenue. Apple measures, it charges, you trust.
As Wolfman says, "Apple will have to change. It's not sustainable, people will need to make their own assessments. I think Apple wanted to start with something simple and controlled, but I expect them to change the program very quickly."
Roy de Souza is CEO of Zedo, one of the world's leading ad technology companies. Ad metrics are core to his business. According to him, "It is important for advertisers to track with their own technology because they need their own data if they are to trust that the ads were shown to users as promised. This accountability creates a strong incentive for Apple to make sure that the ads are served correctly. Google initially did not allow advertisers to use their own tracking but now they do. I would urge Apple to follow suit."
The iAd is a symptom of Apple's inability to come to terms with the way computing has been for the last 30 years. While designing innovative products, as a business Apple still strategizes like it's the 1970s -- trying to create isolated ecosystems when everyone else knows the world wants one big open inter-connected system.
Apple seems wedded to the idea that it can own all aspects of its customer experience, even though its own corporate history shows this is unsustainable. The smartphone environment is a mirror of the early days of personal computing, yet Apple shows no sign of having learned from this experience.
The iAd system depends on unfinished technology, and therefore cannot be sustained in its current form, increasing the cost of ownership for those who develop iAd widgets. At the same time, Apple wants advertisers to forget about demographics and segmentation, rolling back the clock to the days of TV and radio-style mass delivery. In addition to asking advertisers to work with flaky technology in an old-fashioned manner, Apple proposes to deny them the ability to assess their own work, or to check that it is doing what it's being paid for. Under these circumstances, iAd only has a future while there is no alternative. History has shown us an alternative will inevitably develop.
I'll leave the final word to Ian Wolfman:
"I'm not convinced iPhone/iPad has a long-term future. It's a closed system. It's attractive now because the U.S. lacks an open alternative, but it's inevitable that one will develop."
Brandt Dainow is an independent web analytics and marketing consultant.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.
<< Previous page