Mobile Advertisers Embrace the iPhone

Are declarations about the iPhone changing mobile an overstatement? Perhaps. But Omar Hamoui, CEO and founder of mobile ad network AdMob, said the iPhone is definitely opening some exciting doors.

“What’s important for mobile advertising is, obviously, to have the eyeballs or user base to consume the advertising,” said Hamoui. “The original assumption behind the iPhone was you can browse the entire Web on your iPhone. What a logical person would think, therefore, was that the iPhone was going to have the same advertising you see on the Web. So why would a company design special ads for the iPhone? There is no need.”

But Hamoui, whose company just released a special ad unit designed for the iPhone, said the assumption was wrong.

Just because iPhones have browsers capable of rendering the “real” Internet and not just WAP sites doesn’t mean there’s no need for ad units specially designed for iPhones. “We run a mobile ad network,” he said. “We started to see a significant amount of iPhone traffic on those formatted-for-mobile sites,” said Hamoui. “On top of that, we started to see a whole bunch of applications for iPhone, Web apps, being created.”

He noted Facebook and Netvibes just announced iPhone-enhanced interfaces.

Additionally, companies began asking AdMob about creating ads specially-designed to take advantage of iPhone’s unique features. “There are a whole host of consumer sites coming out with iPhone- friendly spaces, plus we were getting requests to our sales force asking, ‘How can we engage with iPhone users?'”

Apple’s new gadget isn’t cheap, so companies can safely assume iPhone owners have money and are willing to spend it. That makes them a demographic worth targeting. “We saw supply from publishers and demand from advertisers,” noted Hamoui.

AdMob’s new iPhone ad unit allows interactivity that can’t be created on other mobile devices. “It’s a much more interesting and enriched type of mobile advertising than we could do before,” said Hamoui. “Because the iPhone has Javascript, the iPhone ad units are capable of doing sophisticated stuff.”

For example, AdMob’s new iPhone ad unit for Starbucks includes a Starbucks ad that, when clicked, slides down allowing the user to enter a Zip Code. Doing that opens the iPhone’s Google Maps application which directs the owner to the nearest Starbucks.

The key to making iPhone-enhanced mobile ads is to allow them to leverage the Safari browser’s functionality without using too much bandwidth, said Hamoui. The AT&T EDGE network being used by iPhones isn’t the fastest. “What we’re really doing is basically taking advantage of a full-featured browser and just making the interface iPhone-sized, making it lightweight,” he said.

Clearly, AdMob is not alone in hopping on the iPhone bandwagon.

Ingenio, which operates a pay-per-call ad network, recently released an application for the iPhone called TouchCall. Company CMO Marc Barach said TouchCall simplifies phone number searching for iPhone owners. “Simply tap on a button that says ‘florist’ and connect to a florist in a given market,” he said, noting the searches are also monetized by Ingenio audio ads.

Then there’s HarperCollins, which just announced it is making digital book content available for the iPhone platform in a program called Browse Inside. The company said it will initially offer iPhone-enhanced samples — the first 10 pages of chapters one and two — from 14 new books. The books can be purchased or pre-ordered right from the iPhone.

“The Browse Inside feature for the iPhone is part of the ongoing effort to advance technology, and allows mobile consumers to tap into the power and convenience of online book discovery,” said HarperCollins in a statement. “We are excited to be a part of it.”

Related reading