We’ve yet to see how Apple‘s iAd campaign works in the flesh, and it’s already been deemed slightly controversial. Yet with news about Microsoft’s own aggressive ad plans for Windows Phone 7, Apple again seems like the good guy.
A Microsoft representative is now reported as saying that Windows Phone 7 will be an “ad-serving machine.” We’ve got no evidence that he’s been taken out by MS’s PR department and shot, but that loose-tongued soundbite will probably have really upset the guys in Redmond as it makes the entire Windows Phone 7 system sound like one big sham cover-up for an advertising enterprise rather than a wonderful user-friendly high-tech phone OS.
But is that actually what WP7 may turn out to be? The MS rep in question is Kostas Mallios, general manager for Strategy and Business Development, and he was speaking to advertising pros at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. During his speech he had some promising things to say about WP7–it’s all about getting “technology out of the way of the people” and “seamlessness” he noted, which makes it seem MS is finally taking its phone OS out of the user-hostile dark ages it’s been languishing in.
Then came the sort-of bad stuff. It’s all relating to Toast, the system MS will be using to serve “push” notification adverts onto users. It’s opt-outable, but like iAd it seems threaded throughout the entire OS. It’ll allow advertisers to place “tiles” on the homescreen among the more usual UI segments that contain dynamically chosen ad placements to pop up before the user’s eyes. Advertisers can even command pop-up ads to appear on screen when a particular related app isn’t even running, enabling advertisers to “stay in touch with your customer,” as Mallios put it, even when the customer isn’t necessarily thinking about your product.
There’s one subtle difference though, partly to do with how these two ad systems are being promoted, and partly due to the way the company behind their creation may be thinking. Apple’s iAd is actively designed to create ad “experiences” in a way that just might even make interacting with them fun, as part of a phone design where user experience is deemed king. It almost seems like a reinvention of the advert–which is more or less a necessary evil in our society. Microsoft’s system seems designed to let advertisers actively “push” their ad content onto users, 24-7-365, in a kind of technology-fueled enhancement to the way existing ads work. One is about user buy-in, the other is about pushing data onto users. One has a toy-like ad quality, the other is a “machine” for serving ad content.
What would you rather have? A phone built where how you feel while using it is at the core of the design, or one where how well advertisers can fire messages into your eyes is optimized? And, perhaps more importantly, which system would you rather be associated with, as an advertiser? Apple may have been ever-so-slightly slipping in delivering its usual high-quality stuff recently, but in this case it would seem to have the game pretty well thought out.