Commentary

Apple Forging Ahead With Programmatic Plans

Late last year, Apple more or less reintroduced iAd, its mobile ad platform that had failed to take off since launching five years ago. Apple recently struck multiple ad tech partnerships to resurrect iAd as a programmatic platform.

Marking one of the first major Apple-related programmatic announcements since the iAd reinvention, Advertising Age has reported that “Apple is extending its mobile advertising network to iTunes Radio, its web streaming service that competes with Pandora, through programmatic ad buying. Previously, advertisers had to buy through Apple's lean iAd sales staff. The new feature also comes with updated targeting capabilities, using customer phone numbers and email addresses that can be cross-referenced anonymously against marketers' data.”

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The news comes in the same week that Vector Capital, a tech-focused private equity firm, scooped up Triton Digital for an undisclosed sum. Trition Digital is one of the leaders in the programmatic audio space, having launched an ad exchange in early 2013.

Vector Capital said it acquired Triton because of its position in an “attractive and expanding global digital audio market.”

Apple obviously has similar thoughts.

“[We are] thrilled to see Apple double down with iTunes Radio,” said Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, one of the companies Apple partnered with to breath new life into iAd last year."Apple is making clear their commitment to monetizing their inventory via programmatic. With iTunes Radio, agencies and marketers have yet another premium channel in which to reach their best audiences.”

Chatter about Apple, iAds, iTunes Radio and programmatic -- and all of that mixed together -- has been around for several years now, so it’s no surprise to see them officially “double down,” especially in light of the spate of ad tech partnerships they struck last year. The move is nonetheless a “win” for everything involved, including mobile, audio streaming and programmatic.

For Apple, it puts them in the competitive but not overcrowded space of streaming audio ads via programmatic. But we shouldn’t expect them to stop there.

“Today it's iTunes Radio and their mobile ad network, very soon we expect them to bring this type of functionality to Apple TV,” said Benjamin Witte, head of mobile growth at AdRoll, another one of Apple’s recent ad tech partners. “It's great for the industry."

"It’s a somewhat logical next step," added Kaylie Smith, head of seller cloud at Rubicon Project, another one of iAd's partners. She continued: "[It] helps paves the way for future adoption in other ways should Apple want to move in that direction -- for instance with iWatch when it rolls out next month and other wearables in the future."

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