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A Fresh Set of Eyes

  |  May 6, 2010   |  Comments

Four ways Apple's iAd platform will bring brand dollars to digital.

Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes.

For more than a decade, all of us in the digital media industry have been unable to create the conditions big brand marketers were looking for. Digital became synonymous with direct response in the eyes of too many budget holders, and budgets never reached the levels they should have based on consumption.

Maybe it just took a great brand marketer to fix the problem, because with the launch of the iAd platform, Apple is clearly creating a system that will appeal to marketers interested in image building.

IAd may be a mobile platform, but its impact will be much broader. Apple is putting a stake in the ground about what digital marketing can be, and the industry will follow its lead.

Here are four aspects of the iAd approach that will influence the conversations about how all digital channels can build brands.


While a big part of the online industry is narrowing its focus on microtargeting and audience buying, Steve Jobs is making a statement that iAd is about reach. Check out his iAd keynote where he talks about 100 million devices delivering 1 billion impressions per day. He's drawing a line in the sand: this is a platform that can help you communicate with lots of people.

The power and importance of reach is a conversation that has been oddly absent in the past couple of years, but Apple just brought it back. Mobile may theoretically have been a reach medium before iAd in the sense that everyone has a mobile device, but without a compelling way to communicate, that wasn't compelling enough. Apple just unlocked the reach of mobile by giving brands a canvas worth painting on.

Brand Metrics

Here's how iAd works: you see an ad...it appeals to you...you click on it and enter an immersive brand experience...you spend some time with it...the time you spent positively impacts your relationship with the brand. The click is the beginning of the sequence but by no means the point. The point is the time spent and the experience delivered, and we'll all be forced to quantify that impact with metrics more meaningful than CPC (define) and the like.

Apple single-handedly saved the entire mobile industry with iAd. Without this bold attempt to make mobile a branding medium, the industry would have inevitably gone down the path of coupons and special offers. And like the display market, we would wake up 10 years later wondering why brand advertisers didn't want to spend their money on mobile devices.

Pricing Simplicity

Apple has brought the clarity and simplicity of retail pricing to media and you pay a penny for each impression served and you pay $2 when someone clicks on the ad to enter the deeper experience, according to The Wall Street Journal. That's it. As the secondary market moves toward auction pricing, it makes sense that the premium market think about new pricing models as well. We should see this model take off, with premium publishers following suit.

Custom Design

IAd only works in the world of Apple. That's going to create more work for agencies, but isn't that a good thing? More work equals more revenue, after all.

The need to spend the time to think carefully about the creative experience in one specific context is inevitably going to lead to better work. That's an approach that will likely be expanded more broadly: instead of designing a bunch of ad unit sizes with a factory mindset, the approach becomes more like a craftsman making something special.

Again, this goes back to the trend of a bifurcated digital marketplace, with different markets for premium and secondary inventory. If it makes sense to pay for a premium placement, it ought to make sense to design with that space in mind, something that happens only with high profile placements at the moment.

Apart from the specifics about the iAd platform, the most important thing Apple has done has elevated the perception of mobile/digital. This is valuable space, it has said, worth paying for, and worth creating for purposefully. It's a great opportunity for others to follow Apple's lead.

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Adam Cahill

Adam Cahill is the EVP, Media at Hill Holliday. You can connect with him on Twitter at @adamcahill.

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