When it comes to marketing, ‘location, location, location’ has always
been important. But thanks to the rapid growth and maturity of mobile
technologies, ‘location, location, location’ is taking on new meaning.
Location-based advertising is potentially the holy grail of mobile
marketing. And it appears that Apple, which occupies an important
position in the mobile market with the iPhone, apparently wants to keep
location-based advertising opportunities to itself.
Developers interested in developing iPhone apps that use GPS data to serve up location-based ads got a piece of bad news from Apple: GPS is only to be used for delivering “beneficial information“. That excludes ads, so any app that “uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location” will be rejected.
Obviously, a lot hinges on the word “primarily“. But one thing is certain: Apple is sending a clear message that it’s keeping a close eye on how developers try to target ads to iPhone users. Especially when many use Admob to do. Admob just happens to be owned by Google.
The reason is obvious. Apple isn’t simply the manufacturer of the iPhone. It has built a lucrative business through the App Store, and through the App Store it controls much of the iPhone experience. The ability to control how advertising fits into that experience is very valuable to Apple. And it clearly doesn’t want to give up that control.
I respect the company’s right to do what it thinks is best. It’s hard to argue with the company’s success. While one could debate whether or not Apple should keep developers from using GPS data to serve up ads, the problem, in my opinion, isn’t the decision. Rather, it’s how frequently Apple is getting tripped up trying to present believable justifications for its decisions.
Banning the use of GPS to serve ads (under a subjective test no less) while stating that iPhone GPS data can only be used for “beneficial information” implies that ads aren’t “beneficial“. Given that Apple recently paid $275m for a mobile advertising company, that seems a bit disingenous. And it was somewhat amusing to learn that “Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy” when a photo of Apple’s new iPad distributed by the company displayed Flash content. Flash content that real iPad customers won’t be able to view because like the iPhone, the iPad isn’t going to support Flash.
Obviously, it doesn’t take much to see that Apple’s positions are usually based on a desire to protect its business interests. And it will go to great lengths in this regard. Yet instead of leaving that obvious fact unstated, Apple has come up with all sorts of alternative explanations that are just downright silly.
The truth is that Apple could probably come out and say “We’re going to control location-based advertising on the iPhone” or “Flash would threaten the App Store economy” and people would still buy its products. So it would make sense for Apple to do just that. After all, Steve Jobs recently said that Google’s ‘do no evil‘ mantra was “bullsh*t“. Perhaps it’s time he looked at some of the explanations his company gives because they smell funny too.