iAd: Apple's Very Own Mobile Advertising Platform

Apple's been eying mobile advertising ever since as early as January. Today, as part of their iPhone OS 4.0 announcement, comes iAd: Apple's plans for in-app ads that are about to get a lot more interactive—possibly even fun.

What that means is that we're going to start seeing a lot more ads inside of apps. Since the average person spends 30 minutes inside apps per day, Jobs figures, one ad every three minutes would lead to 1 billion ad impressions per day over Apple's 100 million devices.

The type of ads you're going to see will be different as well. Ideally, according to Jobs, they'll hit the intersection of emotion and interactivity. In practical terms, that means interactive and video content ads are going to be served up without your leaving the app. You can also return to your app enjoyment at any time by closing out of the ad.

For example: a Toy Story 3 banner ad, when clicked on, will fill out the screen and offer a variety of interactive options: sound clips, video playback, even games within the ad.

iAd: Apple's Very Own Mobile Advertising Platform

A Nike ad, similarly, lets you watch videos, build your own custom shoe, or find a store locator, all without leaving the app you're in.

iAd: Apple's Very Own Mobile Advertising Platform

A third example: a neat-looking App from Target that lets you custom-build your own college dorm room:

iAd: Apple's Very Own Mobile Advertising Platform

Apple's going to sell and host the ads, and give developers 60% of the revenue. It also, importantly, gives Apple a Flash workaround. Since the iPhone and iPad don't support the dynamic ads that marketers love, all of the interactivity is going to have to be done through HTML5. The ads also won't be subject to the same filters as apps are, which makes sense; while there might be a "light touch" to screen out anything clearly offensive (much like there are certain restrictions on network TV ads), they've got a lot of leeway. Since, you know, it's their money.

Apple's clearly staking an ad relevancy claim here, as well: the argument goes search is general and unfeeling, while an in-app ad can be specific to whatever content is being served up at that moment. Take that, Google! And while the end goal, as always is monetization, making in-app ads more productive could actually work to keep apps free.

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The SDK gives a hint of how this will work from the developer's point of view, as well:

"You can use iAd (AdLib.framework) to deliver modal advertisements (also known as interstitial advertisements) and banner-based advertisements from your application. Advertisements are incorporated into standard views that you integrate into your user interface and present when you want. The views themselves work with Apple's ad service to automatically handle all the work associated with loading and presenting the ad content and responding to taps in those ads."

So it's really up to the developer the degree to which the ads are presented. Hopefully they'll keep user experience top of mind.

The first hints of iAd came in early February, when Apple warned off developers from apps that "use location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location." Turns out they were clearing the path to own the space themselves. We'll know soon enough if it ends up being an annoyance or a service.

Jobs made it clear in the Q&A, though, that they don't want to become a worldwide ad agency. Instead, they're building on January's purchase of Quattro... a worldwide mobile ad agency.

From Apple's press release:

"iAd, Apple's new mobile advertising platform, combines the emotion of TV ads with the interactivity of web ads. Today, when users click on mobile ads they are almost always taken out of their app to a web browser, which loads the advertiser's webpage. Users must then navigate back to their app, and it is often difficult or impossible to return to exactly where they left. iAd solves this problem by displaying full-screen video and interactive ad content without ever leaving the app, and letting users return to their app anytime they choose. iPhone OS 4 lets developers easily embed iAd opportunities within their apps, and the ads are dynamically and wirelessly delivered to the device. Apple will sell and serve the ads, and developers will receive an industry-standard 60 percent of iAd revenue."