Steve Jobs Did It Again – First Content, Then Device And Now Mobile Ads

Apple will be the talk of the town in mobile advertising this year. Last week at Apple’s OS 4 event, Jobs presented what advertising industry has been asking from mobile: iAd - the engagement media with scale and quality.

For brands, mobile advertising has had a big promise but no breakthrough: digital media and technology companies trying to fit the traditional online advertising model - mainly display and search - into mobile have not taken off. Mobile media is different to online: being based on communications and quick tasks one performs, not browsing, mobile requires different user experience. Running banners on mobile is like running radio ads on tv.

Most importantly, every new media property needs to add to what existing media already have. In mobile, this has not been the case and despite all the hype, the market is still very small. Planners and buyers already have tons of ‘eyeballs’ they can buy elsewhere in the six mass media channels. During my time at Blyk, the feedback from London’s media industry was clear: “Mobile does not add value to what we already have.” It is understandable - why to bother with complex mobile screen when I get richer experience in traditional web, and reach more people elsewhere? Blyk is the first media company to have formats that engage a qualified audience in mobile, but initially lacked audience scale with the MVNO model.

At the same time, advertising industry has been very clear on what they would need from mobile: engagement. Traditional reach and frequency –based media planning does not work anymore. Media landscape is cluttered with titles and channels, and media consumption is more scattered than ever. When built properly, mobile could become the engagement channel with massive reach. Unfortunately mobile operators who could play a role have lost in this game already.

More specifically, agencies have for long thought that mobile media opportunity is in engaging applications. Mobile needs to provide engagement, and in mobile engagement equals to applications that are fun, valuable and something you like. Whenever an agency showcase mobile, it is applications like Lynx Effect by BBH London. Thought leaders like Ogilvy UK’s vice chairman Rory Sutherland voiced already in 2007 that mobile advertising opportunity is in smart phones and ads that become indistinguishable from being a service.

Now, what Apple and Jobs are up to with iAd? In the OS 4 event Jobs addressed everything that the advertising industry has been waiting for. Apple has now an opportunity to combine mobile media user experience needed to engage people with creative opportunities that will inspire the industry - and most importantly, that has a mass media scale immediately:

- You know the ads on the web… They're eye catching and interactive, but they don't deliver emotion. What we want to do with iAds is deliver interaction and emotion [to create real engagement between your brand and our Apple users].

- This is a pretty serious opportunity [with 1 billion impressions per day in our AppStore ecosystem], and it's an incredible demographic [as there is no more attractive technology brand for advertisers today than Apple, qualifying its users as the audience you want to talk to]. But we want to do more than that. We want to change the quality of the ads too [as mobile is a different media to online].

- These ads are looking a lot more like apps. Almost totally separate apps that live inside apps. Is your mind blown yet?

I believe that Apple will be the talk of the town in mobile advertising for 2010.

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jahven April 13, 2010

Excellent article, Timo. I also see this is really interesting development. I believe that these more advanced mobile devices and new devices, like iPad, are also used in different situations than traditional PC’s and mobile phones. It means that people use them also to kill time and relax, and are probably more open to receive ads.

An interesting coincidence (?) is that Apple also launched a new data policy in the last week. It restricts app developers to collect data from apps; exact interpretations are still unclear. I just wonder, how much this is linked to their advertising business plans.

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, April 13, 2010

solid post.

my mobile (will) know me better than i know myself. not only will ads appear on mobile, but the data will fuel ads elsewhere. goog, fb and anyone with an ad driven business model MUST be be successful in mobile or will lose the single most important piece of the puzzle....know thy user.

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Niels, April 14, 2010

Apple is truly on an unprecedented winning streak. Quite astonishing ... really!

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Timo Ahopelto April 14, 2010

I got a lot of comments on this post privately, many asking what is my opinion on Google, AdMob and others who are (at least currently) copying the online ad model almost 1:1 into mobile.

I believe they will exist, of course, as mobile ads will not be just one species.

But it is still like running radio ads on tv -- banners and search on mobile do not build on what mobile media is all about, and what it can bring into the media mix for brands. Mobile at best is about interactions, communications, and - lately - spending time with engaging apps.

And like I commented to one of my friends, if I prove to be wrong in years time, I can always say it is just because Apple cannot execute... ;-)