Is the iAd platform right for your brand?

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In June 2010, Apple introduced advertisers to a new mobile-rich media platform, the iAd. iAds were intended to enhance the mobile advertising experience on Apple devices. Since then, there has been news that several advertisers are not exactly thrilled with the development process. In fact, some reports even have advertisers pulling out of their contracts.

All of this news combined with the timing and expense of building an iAd makes it very important to understand the platform. Is it worth it for your brand?

Before we discuss the evaluation of iAds for your brand, let's take a look at how they work. The iAd looks like a small banner ad within an app. They are not served through a browser, only in apps on the iPhone and iPod Touch. They are not yet available on the iPad, but Apple has promised advertisers that they will be sometime in 2011.

Consumers will know they are iAds because they have the logo in the bottom right corner of every iAd that is served. Apple hopes that over time, users will understand what that means.

Below is an example of an AT&T U-verse iAd in The Weather Channel app.Notice the size and specs of the ad, as well as the iAd icon in the bottom right part of the banner:

So where do users see iAds? Well, app developers have the option of whether or not to serve them. By doing so, they take 60 percent of the revenue from Apple. For a small app developer that could add up to a significant amount. For larger publishers, such as The Weather Channel, there's a balance between serving iAds and serving ads from other mobile ad networks. By optimizing multiple opportunities, app developers and publishers can maximize profits. The number of apps that allow iAds to be served is growing month by month. It's an easy process for developers who simply have to check a box in their updated app for iOS 4.

Once an iAd is "tapped" open, the ad opens to a full-screen experience. Because they are built in HTML5, users can watch videos, interact with the ad, and even download apps directly within the iAd. A close button, which looks like an "x," is persistent in the top left corner of every iAd. By tapping this, the iAd will close, and users will go directly back to where they were in the app. This is a benefit for consumers, as the app they were in is always left open. If they were able to click out to another mobile website, the app would close and users would be forced to re-open the app.

Let's put that into perspective. Imagine you're reading an article in a news app. A message appears in the form of an iAd banner, and you're interested in learning more about it. You tap the iAd and it opens into a full-screen experience. Once you're finished and ready to go back to reading the news app, you simply close the iAd. If you were able to "click out" to another site, the app would close, forcing you to re-open it and search for the article you were reading.

Now that we understand how the iAd platform works from a consumer perspective, it's important to understand if it's right for your brand.

As an advertiser, you should ask these five questions before making that decision:

Is my target audience using Apple iOS?

The reach is fairly limited. iAds are only available through iPhones and the iPod Touch. Apple claims that there are approximately 40 million devices that support iAds. With iPhone sales still increasing, that number is continuously growing. In addition, you have to understand if your target audience uses apps. iAds are only served within apps. They are not served on a website within a mobile browser. So, you need to balance the size of the audience with the buzz and newness that garners more engagement.