Apple's new iPad may be flying off the shelves, but the device maker is also trying to sell mobile ads, and that may prove trickier than Steve Jobs anticipated. As the Wall Street Journal points out today, Apple's new mobile advertising platform is getting off to a slow start. And at Digiday: Apps in New York on Monday, publishers and media buyers were cautious about buying ads from Apple.
As much as the iPad has people excited about new monetization approaches for digital content, it's the end result — reaching consumers — not the iPad specifically that they're concerned about. And Apple's approach to ad selling could turn brands away from its popular devices.
Apple launched its iAd system July 1. But it has been slow to roll out advertising partners. The company had 17 launch partners, and only two puts ads on the service for most of July, according to the Journal.
Part of the issue is that Apple has heavily embedded itself in the creative process. The company has also been less than willing to share user data with developers and advertisers. According to Robin Steinberg, SVP of print investment and activation at Starcom MediaVest:
"It is really frustrating in terms of the lack of data they're willing to give publishers. Publishers want to share in the data. I'm not saying no one wants to control it. But Jobs 100% wants to control it."
Some of Apple's control issues stem from its proprietary functionality on the iPad. Advertisers who are still attached to television for the emotional appeal that a 30-second spot can communicate have been slow to move into digital advertising formats. But the iPad promises a more customized and immersive experience. For many advertisers, video ads seemlessly integrated into an app or a magazine experience are more appealing than a similar ad online. As Kevin Granath, VP of sales at Greystripe, says of Apple:
"They do that perfect job of marrying form and function."
However, many are unhappy with the information that Apple has been willing to share so far on its devices. Says Steinberg:
"We're not getting the answers we need to continue sponsorships. I don't have any information on time spent, engagement, or anything that's going to help."
And while Apple may hope to corner the market in mobile app advertising by offering the most functionality to the best audiences, a big hurdle will be the way that brands and publishers approach mobile. The speakers on stage during the "The iPad, iAds and the Hype" panel on Monday were more interested in consumers than the device they're using to view things.
Apple has people very excited about its offerings on the iPad. But that could change. According to Dan Rubin, SVP of strategy and analysis at Publicis Modem:
"It's important that we view all of these mobile devices as part of the ecosystem. It's not about the success of one of these devices. It's about all of them... Continuity between devices will take the pressure off of one device. It will benefit the consumer, and benefit the brand."
Moreover, publishers are trying to create various entry points for consumers to reach them wherever they may be. As Steinberg says:
"It's not about buying silos. It's about following the customers."
That said, iAd has only existed for a month. And as much as Apple may be known for dominating digital marketplaces, advertising is a new business for the company, and one where they may stumble before getting things right. As Granath puts it:
"They're still trying to figure it out. [Apple] has a lot to learn. Media buying and avertising is a specialized world. It's not just come in and 'I can do this no problem.'"