IAds, IPads And The Great IUnkowns

 "Search is not where it's at," Steve Jobs said at an event at Apple headquarters last week. "People are not searching on a mobile device like they are on the desktop." 

Take that, Google.

Last week was certainly invigorating.  Everyone in the Bay Area, it seemed, was showing off their new iPads.  And many people -- well, geeks at any rate -- were buzzing about the new operating system Jobs had announced. And the promise of Apple's new iAds platform, also announced last week, was in the air.

Applemania was so pervasive that when I went to the San Francisco Symphony on Thursday night to see Duncan Sheik perform a suite of songs from his new musical "Whisper House," I was only mildly surprised to see him carrying an iPad instead of sheet music, which he placed on his music stand and dutifully sang from throughout the performance. 

For my part, I love my new iPad.  All the Google apps I use and enjoy are more useful and lovelier on the iPad, especially YouTube.  I bought the GQ app to get a magazine-type experience and it was amazing, showing great promise for the glossy magazines of yore. Similarly, game apps are more fun and more immersive on the iPad.



Most surprisingly, it brings a murky pain point into more specific relief. That is, the iPad makes clear all the ways in which either your smartphone or your laptop are limiting when used for casual entertainment.  Whereas a laptop is too bulky and relies too much on a browser, the iPhone, which is so perfect for general on-the-go-ness, is simply too small for movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos or gazing adoringly at the Web site you just spent several months remodeling.  Which is why the iPad is ideal for lying on the couch and reading The New York Times for hours on end, or reclining on a plane to watch a good movie, or playing an invigorating game of Scrabble.

It's this new experience, then, that makes Apple's new iAd introduction so intriguing. In Jobs's usual hyperbolic fashion, he says the advertising platform will forever change the way advertising is engaged, used and enjoyed online. 

Because the iAd platform will be part and parcel of the new OS, apps deploying these ads will provide a seamless experience not only to interact with advertising, but even to complete transactions.  Once done with an ad, which, presumably, will be as immersive and beautiful to behold as everything else on the iPad, the user is returned to the app to resume his activities.  What isn't clear is the ability of advertisers to target any given audience segment across multiple apps, and the degree to which Apple will expose what it knows about its users to marketers.

Despite the uncertainty, what is certain is that iAds won't include search-related advertising.  (Search, you see, is so not where it's at.)  Except there's a huge opportunity here that could be a real gold mine for Apple.

Consider the Epicurious app, which I also downloaded for free on my iPad.  I was able to search for a number of recipes, pull together a dinner menu, create a shopping list and send that list to my iPhone.  Imagine if marketers could have bid on promotions or coupon insertions around the items on my shopping list.  Perhaps Epicurious and other app developers will figure this out for themselves.  Still, an AdWords-like system would make it easier for advertisers to target search-related action occurring within individual apps across the entire app ecosystem.

Beyond the iAd environment, search advertisers will be able to leverage a whole slew of newer search ad options from Google and Yahoo, including site links, product extensions, local extensions, mobile ads and coupons, and rich ads in search (which include video, images and logos).  Imagine how gorgeously much of this will render on the iPad.  Imagine the click-through rates that might be achieved.

Yes, last week was a hyperbolic one and mostly justified, at that.  But despite a raft of new opportunities for advertisers, there is still much uncertain terrain for Apple and app developers to negotiate.  I anticipate the thrills and spills will keep on coming.

2 comments about "IAds, IPads And The Great IUnkowns".
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  1. Kelly Smith from The WebSmith Group, April 14, 2010 at 1:32 a.m.

    The iPad will change the universe as we know it. You touched on several points in this article and I also wrote about some of these same things here:

    But what I like about what you mentioned is that I also believe that search is on the way out. Oh, I believe there will always be a Google, a Bing and and Ask, but they will fade into the distant past with products like the iPad. It will become a personal item, a part of themselves that is trusted and befriended. It actually won't even be like my beloved MacBook Pro, but it will become my personal window to the world and the advertising platform had better match that level of trust or it will be thrown out.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Jason Spievak from RingRevenue, April 21, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.

    All of this is very exciting for the future of technology. What we’ll see from iAd will be very different from the mobile advertising we’ve seen to date. We’re hearing about some very interactive ad formats, as Apple says they’ll be doing the heavy lifting to make sure the ads are cleanly integrated into third-party developers’ apps. As you mention, customers will not only be able to interact with the ads, they will actually be able to complete transactions. This is a great revenue opportunity for advertisers, but there’s a missing piece. No matter how cool or fun the ad is, completing a purchase online on a small screen is still no easy feat. By including a phone number, the advertiser can go with the flow of the user’s natural tendencies (to want to use their device to connect with someone live, right away). I’m wondering if Apple has already considered this, and if updates will soon be on the way. Search might not be where it’s at with mobile, but Google’s introduction of click-to-call does show that they “get” mobile customer behavior.

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