I have to say I’m optimistic about iAd. iAd has the potential to really show the marketing world just how creative they can get with mobile. That said, I’m still not really sure what iAd actually is. Is it rich media? Is it a network? An exchange? Platform? I think it may be all of the above, actually which could be awesome for mobile advertising. It’s the first attempt to capture the true value of mobile advertising in the app world and it’s a great second step to providing a way for app developers to make money for their hard work.
First here’s my one nitpick on the launch itself – the point when Jobs asks the audience “Have you ever seen anything like this?“ as if iAd was actually new. Well, it’s actually not really new. AOL’s Platform-A released a device-agnostic, rich media format last year. I guess it was new to most of the people in the audience but I think Steve got a little ahead of himself.
So on to my larger and more general concerns, I’m a little (just a little) worried because …well let’s face it, Apple isn’t a media company. Apple hasn’t really worked with brands and agencies to deliver results. They are a hardware and technology company (consumer-focused even!) and now have the task of how to sell mobile advertising to brands, most likely through media buyers. I hope they realize it’s not totally about technology, it’s about delivering value to advertisers and, coming from 12 years of working with advertisers in the mobile space, we’ve learned a great deal on how hard it is to sell advertising unless you know marketing. Technology only gets you so far.
My bigger worry is, I think I see Apple putting up a little wall around their garden. It’s not a huge wall now, you can certainly see over the edge, but make no mistake, with iAd’s launch they certainly just put another row of bricks on top. 40% of the ad revenue is going to Apple. That’s HUGE! This is on top of the 30% they get from the app developer and whatever AT&T pays them for their deal (note to my broker, buy AAPL).
Unfortunately walled gardens are nothing new to the mobile industry – Apple practically invented the walled garden 20 years ago. When they introduced computers, they went the “we’re going to make our own hardware and software so you can’t play“ road while Microsoft went the “anybody can make PCs for us and we’ll just run the software“ road. Yeah, remember when Microsoft was seen as “open“ while Apple was the evil company that wouldn’t let others play?
Wait though, Apple bought Quattro, that helps, you argue. Umm… yeah, they bought Quattro. How much of the iAd announcement do you think could have been announced without them buying Quattro? That or Apple signed the deal, integrated Quattro’s technology, integrated Quattro’s people, learned their unique knowledge, created iAd, and drafted the iAd announcement in less than 4 months. Yes, mobile changes fast but not that fast. Steve’s the man but even he isn’t that good.
So I guess we all just have to wait and see what’s next. I, for one, will be on the phone with Apple trying to figure out how we can help increase revenue for app developers who deserve more revenue and how we can allocate the demand from our clients who advertise to some of the most valuable early adopters in the world. I know for sure there’s a need for that.