iAds: A Necessary Evil?

When Apple first introduced the iAd program this past summer, it was greeted with a rousing “meh” from the crowd. Advertising isn’t an exciting medium to many people, but it does serve a purpose — one that Google has used to its advantage to build an empire. But now that Apple is in the ad game, is it a winning formula, or just a necessary evil?

What is an iAd?

Apple has always been known for making provocative advertisements, but selling them is a new ballgame entirely. After all, they’re known for making hardware and software, not selling space. But with the introduction of the iPhone and the App ecosystem, a hole opened up. Free apps were being supported by ads, ones that weren’t very creative and seemed to go outside of the clean aesthetic of the iPhone itself.

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iAds for iOS

They saw an opportunity. Apple wasn’t blind, and they knew that Google’s business plan was built on search and the accompanying advertisements, which has become the standard for how people make money on the internet. Mobile advertising was new, and Google already had their hooks in the market. It was an opportunity to make some money, but do it in a very Apple way that would hopefully become dominant on all mobile devices over time. Apple couched this by saying that this was a way for free apps to generate some revenue, but it was also a way to stick it to Google.

So What Makes iAds Different?

Where Google ads are static and basic, iAds are all about interactivity. Click the ad and you’re taken to a new screen where you become a part of the ad itself. Play a game, listen to sounds or watch videos, all while still staying inside the app. That is the key to making iAds accessible and popular among the masses — keep the viewer in the app, and that way they don’t lose anything by clicking on the link. It separates the Google ads from the iAds in a way that sets a higher standard.

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Nissan's Interactive iAd

This has its drawbacks, particularly for the advertisers. An iAd that will get approved by Apple has to be intricate, detailed, and serve a purpose. In his presentation, Steve Jobs demoed an iAd for Toy Story 3 which had games, puzzles, and video. These are all things that need to be created and produced which can get quite expensive. Then there’s the buy in of the ads themselves, which according to some reports, can be as much as seven figures. This means that only the higher-end companies will be buying iAd spaces, because they have the resources to make the production values that Apple wants.

Are iAds Going to Become Standard in All Apps?

The big fear when Apple first introduced iAds was that everyone was going to find a way to integrate them into their apps. Although Apple claimed it was targeted at free apps, there was no reason why a paid app had to remain ad free, and users panicked.

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A Nike iAd

But what happened next was a little bit different. Instead of getting greedy, most developers that charge for their apps have decided to forgo advertisements in lieu of the purchase price. Ultimately, what Apple said they wanted is what they seem to have received.

What Does This Mean to Me?

Apple has built itself up as a company that lives on presentation and control. They want to make sure that any user who uses one of their products has a positive experience, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of iOS and the iPhone. As such, they want to make sure that even the advertising on the device gives a warm and fuzzy feeling, as well as bring in some spare change to their pockets as well. Because of the high cost of admission, Apple doesn’t expect everyone to create iAds, but those that do will have amazing ads that really go above and beyond.

The thing is, iAds haven’t taken over the app system, and most people would be hard pressed to say that they’ve even seen an iAd. Ultimately, although Apple can now officially claim that they’re in the ad game, it’s just one of many options available to developers who want to bring in extra revenue.

That said, Apple products are known to gain enhancements over time. Don’t be surprised if the next version of the iAd program comes out and it blows Google’s mobile ad business out of the water.