How Apple can fix iAd
If Apple is serious about its iAd business — and I believe it still is — and wants to be a great advertising partner for app developers, media companies, brands, and agencies, here’s what it needs to do:
- Understand that being truly successful in the advertising business will require more personality, transparency, wining-and-dining, openness, and flexibility than any of Apple’s other businesses permit. (In other words: Get over itself.)
- Hire a GM from the advertising world — someone well-liked, from an agency? — to show media buyers and brands that Apple is serious about working with them. Allow them to represent Apple publicly in the ad community, at conferences, in the press, etc.
- Spend a significant amount of time talking about iAd at the next Apple product event. Steve Jobs hasn’t talked about it in a long time. Make it very clear that things are changing.
- Give iAd salespeople some wiggle room on ad rates — minimum buys and CPMs — so they can actually sell more ads.
- Consider allowing others to use iAd technology — both its creative format and targeting capabilities — for ads that Apple doesn’t sell. This could start with a few big publishers that sell their own ads — perhaps the New York Times and ESPN — and could eventually be further opened up. Charge a small ad serving rate for those ads and help publishers fill the rest of their inventory with Apple-brokered iAds.
Remember, Apple has two goals for iAd:
- To help developers make more money from apps, especially free apps. This further enriches Apple’s app ecosystem, which makes iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches more attractive purchases — which is how Apple makes money.
- To build a huge ($1 billion+ per year) advertising business. It might not be insanely profitable, but it doesn’t need to be — Apple makes its profits by selling hardware. But it needs to be a very big ad business to be successful and to be worth Apple’s investment.
With Apple’s superb technology and taste — and its huge app ecosystem — I still think iAd can be very successful at bringing brand advertisers to mobile advertising. Now it’s a matter of Apple showing some humility and making a few changes to put iAd on a track to win.
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