Mobile Ad Space Bursting With Potential but Few Experts

First smartphones were redefined as powerful social media/Net devices and then, Boom! The advertising industry grabbed on in search of cash. But the new ad business are finding everything a bit new and scary.

Stork delivering mobile ads


First smartphones were redefined as powerful social media/Net devices and then: Boom! The advertising industry grabbed on in search of new sources of cash income. But the new ad business are finding everything a bit new and scary, and are still finding their feet.

Apple’s iAd Slow Off the Starting Block

There’s been a bit of buzz about Apple’s innovative rich-content iAd system recently. Firstly it was reported to be a success, with developers and ad partners finding the whole system ticks along nicely, and that end-user consumers spend significantly more eyes-on time in iAd content than other Net based adverts (a fact that translates directly into more company message transmission, and more income for everyone).

But today there’s a report that states Apple’s been managing iAd’s success so very closely that it’s slowing the production of new iAd content down very significantly. Of the initial 17 announced iAd partners, only two had iAd content published in the wild in July. According to thinking from several insiders, Apple’s desire to wrestle a big chunk of creative control in how iAds look and feel has come as a shock to many of its ad agency creative partners, and the degree of control is quite definitely slowing the arrival of new iAd content as much as two weeks over “normal” mobile ads. This is a big deal in the new fast-moving mobile ads business.

Is it a surprise though? Apple’s intensely focused on the user experience on the iPhone (and iPad) and with good reason: Its decisions, though sometimes controversial, have resulted in a product consumers love, and which has redefined an entire device genre–largely due to the ease of use. Aligning iAd with this thinking is just normal Apple behavior, and it makes logical sense: If iAds were poor quality (or intrusive or annoying compared to the rest of the iOS UI) then people would ignore them. Turn this report about iAd around, and what you have is Apple redefining yet another business sector–massaging the business habits of its partners to best suit the new business. There’s a good reason for this too: The advertising industry is still, in many ways, finding its feet in the new market:

Companies Ponder on Where Mobile Ad Units Live


There’s an interesting report today that advertising agencies are having a tricky time working out where, structurally speaking, their nascent Mobile Ad units belong inside the company. And if you think about it, it makes sense: Agencies’ existing businesses are aligned with ad markets, and have specialties and expertise that match the differing needs of print, TV and, recently, Net advertising. But mobile ads, particularly if they incorporate a high degree of smarts (like location-based gaming, interactivity like iAd, or digital coupon-reward schemes), really are a different hybrid beast, something between the digital advert world and more creative traditional advertising. The big question seems to be do you bolt-on a mobile ad unit as a separate ad-hoc, internally-resourced entity, or outsource it completely, on a contract-by-contract nature?

One solution that seems to be developing is a type of sub-contract ad agency that lines up the platform developers (without whom any of the more clever mobile ad efforts would never work) with bigger advertising agencies, whose clients are looking to launch an interactive ad. According to one firm, Omnicon Group, the answer is to house the mobile ad unit under a “media shop,” in this case a new e-marketing consultancy called Airwave, which is now part of media agency OMD.

Tweet-Advert Firm Magpie So Successful It’s On Sale

Meanwhile in Twitter ad-land, Magpie is seeking a buyer. It’s an in-tweet advertising business that pays users a micropayment when they tweet out a message that’s actually part of a bigger marketing campaign. The system works with the help of some clever analytics that calculate which tweeter, based on their past tweets, is best suited to a particular campaign. The company’s efforts have been so successful that it’s now dubbed “Europe’s number one twitter advertising network” and its reach extends to almost 20 million Twitter users, with big-name ad clients like Sony and Microsoft. Moreover, its owners, whose background is in software design, want to divest themselves of their surprisingly successful new business and get back to what they prefer to do.

Why’s all this important? Because mobile ads on smartphones are very much the future way you’ll experience adverts, whether they’re in the form of dedicated apps, embedded smart adverts like iAds, as part of location-based “check-in” games like Foursquare or even inside mobile-accessed social networking services like Twitter. As these ad firms come to grips with the new market, as a consumer you’ll get an early taste of how marketing messages will be transmitted to you in the ad business of tomorrow.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)