Samantha Noble

Could Apple’s iAd Platform Threaten Mobile Search Advertising?

19th Apr 2010 SEO Blog 3 minutes to read

iAds are the latest monetising innovation from Apple. Allowing advertisers to target specific applications, it provides a focussed approach to mobile marketing that could have a significant impact on paid search.

The much vaunted iPad is set to hit these shores in May (subject to further delays). Joining an already formidable array of app powered Apple products, including the iPhone, the iPad is primed to convert more consumers and change how we interact with the Internet once more.

Apps are at the core of Apple mobile Internet devices. There are thousands available covering a variety of services, games and functions. Some are free, some have a small developer charge. Up until now they have, in the most part, remained free from advertising. Not any longer.

iAds are a new innovation that allow embedded ads to be included within an application. The primary advantage of this marketing method is the ability to target focussed markets. Equally, advertisers will be able to utilise the capabilities of the iPad or iPhone to offer more dynamic and less obtrusive campaigns. So what does this mean for the more traditional paid search?

Well, it certainly isn’t going to help the traditional model. Google utilise a mobile version of their AdWords platform to monetise their search. However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs claims that this simply isn’t suited to the developing mobile market; to quote “Search is not happening on phones; people are using apps.”

Apps of course aren’t just used on Apple products. Google Android devices and most other smartphones have their own interpretation. But by taking the step of introducing advertising opportunities in their apps, Apple have taken a giant leap in developing a new direction in mobile consumer targeting.

Will they work? Well, you’d certainly have to think so. Whilst some people might be slightly irked at the intrusion; however, this is a monetising opportunity that is unique to mobile usage and is in stark contrast to the adapted desktop models employed elsewhere.

The most likely model is that the iAds will feature on the free apps, whilst premium services remain ad free. This isn’t all that different from services such as Spotify, which allows free users to access their massive library of music with occasional advertising interruptions. Paid subscription holders get to enjoy their tunes sans ads.

Paid search on mobile needs development. Whilst it works, it can always work better. The introduction of iAds could well be the catalyst for future innovations in targeted mobile advertising. Content targeting coupled with location-based marketing is the future for mobile search and app advertising. However, the interesting part in all this is what the reaction will be from competitors.

Google have already said that they are now a mobile focused company [see: Google to Focus Attention on Mobile Search Advertising]. Like Apple, they have a reputation for innovation. When it comes to mobile Internet, Apple has a huge market share though. This gives them significant leverage for implementing and integrating change. With a loyal audience of consumers too, iAds should have no problem monetising.

What will the response be? Well, only time will tell. Clearly Google could implement a similar platform; however, unlike Apple’s products, Android isn’t app-centric. Paid search is their biggest money spinner, so finding a way to optimise this for mobile channels – whether in accordance with or in place of mobile AdWords – is a significant challenge.

Clearly the mobile Internet market is taking off. Whilst this brings many challenges, it also offers great opportunities too. Advertisers have to become more creative whilst developers have to find new avenues for them to target. Mobile search is far from dead and buried, as Steve Jobs would have you believe, but this is further evidence that work is needed.

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Samantha Noble

Sam is a talented multi-tasker, a dedicated mother to the gorgeous Theo and a big fan of cooking – word on the street is that she’s pretty good in the kitchen but we’re yet to know if this is true or not. Hint hint, we like cake, Sam.

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