Does iAd open more targeted options?

Apple has boasted about the capabilities of its iAd unit, but will it provide a more personal experience than traditional direct methods? Our experts debate the question


John Shelton
President and CEO, Strata
Twenty-plus years of marketing experience

Yes. Mobile marketing has the potential to individualize an advertisement like no other existing form of advertising. Standing at the center of this mobile advertising ambition is Apple’s newest brainchild: the iAd.

Sure, a TV advertisement has the potential to hit millions of viewers at once, but no other form of advertising provides an ad more tailored to the individual consumer than the mobile advertising provided on the iAd platform.

The iAd platform allows advertisers to directly engage consumers on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad through “in-application” advertising. While there are a couple of different mobile advertising strategies in place, i.e., opt-in options for costly applications to be free, the most promising for both consumers and advertisers is location-based advertisements and behavioral targeting — both available on the iOS 4 (Operating System) that supports the iAd platform.

Admittedly, concerns over third parties exploiting personal data have led some consumers to resist GPS or behavioral-based mobile advertising. Nonetheless, the consumer, too, can benefit from the iAd.

Enabling mobile devices to know a consumer’s location can actually succeed in supporting interests and needs in the form of one instantaneous platform. Apple’s mobile advertising platform is a result of the need for consumer instant gratification, which this new personal advertising provides in one targeted motion; a win-win for both the consumer and the advertiser.


Dean McRobie
Executive director of technology, Organic
More than a decade of marketing experience

No. Don’t get me wrong — I love my iPad, I really do — and I think the iAd network will provide ad builders with some cool new tools that take advantage of both location and handset hardware information. However, many mobile ad platforms already provide similar capabilities, and these tools will soon be considered standard across all devices, not just those running iOS [4].

When thinking about a mobile ad strategy, it’s important to look at it from the consumer’s perspective, and not simply a platform perspective. However, when you do look at the platform perspective, you need to consider the entire mobile landscape.

Take for example Android, which is increasing in use at more than 160,000 Android handsets sold per day. Research in Motion (RIM) recently announced that it shipped its 100 millionth BlackBerry.

Because iAds only target Apple devices, the fact is that potential targets are much broader with more generic ad platforms.

Also, we don’t yet know to what extent advertisers will be able to target against demographic segments with iAd. Although Apple has a lot of insight into their numerous app users based on data from iTunes, it’s unlikely that it will expose this data to iAds. If it did, then targeting would be made exponentially more accurate.

In short, it’s a bad idea for brands to consider narrowing the focus to one ad platform — mobile, tablet or site side — as the economies of the free market will always work in your favor.


While the iAd is truly a compelling platform for marketers to reach tech-savvy consumers, it would be foolhardy for brands to abandon other proven direct marketing methods, such as direct mail and e-mail, in favor of it. Instead, they would be wise to increase iAd usage at a prudent rate.

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