Apple unveiled its iAd mobile advertising product today. The big idea is to help developers make more money off their apps — particularly free apps — through ads that look better than the iPhone ads offered so far. Apple will offer developers 60% of ad revenue, and will sell, host, and deliver ads itself.If advertisers and developers buy in, Apple could have another hit on its hands.
This would be a loss for Google, which is quickly becoming more of a rival. Beyond Google’s own iPhone ad product, it’s also in the process of acquiring AdMob, which has been the leading iPhone ad network so far. (And was Apple’s first choice before it wound up buying Quattro Wireless.)
Here are our biggest questions about Apple’s ad network right now:
Will Apple actually be successful at selling to Madison Avenue? True, brands are ga-ga for Apple’s iPhone apps, so it’s possible that the idea of working with Apple and its iPhone users will be enough to get it attention for ads. This will arguably be the hottest ad product in the gadget world. But this is a completely new ballgame for Apple, and outside of retail, it has never been particularly successful at maintaining large sales forces.
Is the iPhone OS’s reach big enough to get advertisers to bite? Don’t forget, Apple’s iAd will, at least initially, require agencies to make separate, new creative for just the iPhone OS. But the iPhone and iPod touch simply won’t have as wide a reach as other, cross-platform mobile ad networks.
Will Apple’s mobile ads generate enough money for developers to disrupt other ad networks? AdMob and others haven’t given Apple much of a challenge — developers often laugh when we ask the CPMs they’re fetching. But if Apple can’t generate MORE revenue than other ad networks, then what’s the point?
Will Apple extend the iAd to other mobile platforms like Android, RIM, or Palm? That’s one way to make the iAd’s reach bigger and get developers to make Apple their ad company for ALL of their apps, not just their iPhone apps.
What kind of developer tools will Apple provide agencies to make iAds? Agencies are fluent in Adobe Flash and are not fluent in HTML5, which Apple is using as the basis for its ads. Will it hold agencies’ hands so they get good at making iAd creative?
What sort of targeting will Apple offer? Location? Demograhics? Targeting based on app purchases or iTunes purchases?
Will Apple play favourites with certain developers? Other networks do this, giving premium ads to top developers and giving the rest of its developers the rest of its ads. Will Apple have enough “good” ads to go around?
Will Apple sell ads to small and/or crappy companies? The iAds that Steve Jobs and co. showed off today were for major brands. But a lot of the mobile ads we’ve seen so far were for other iPhone apps or other lesser advertisers. Can Apple make the iAd advertiser base as classy as it wants?
How will iAds be different on the iPad than the iPhone? Will advertisers need to make different creative for both platforms? Will ad rates be different? Online ad companies like Yahoo and Glam and others are getting involved in iPad ads, and online ad rates are traditionally higher than iPhone ads rates. Will Apple be able to compete as well there as on the iPhone?
Will other ad networks just totally rip off Apple’s product? It’s not like Apple can protect HTML5 or standards-based multimedia files. So why won’t AdMob or Millennial just make it so this creative can run on its network, too?
Don’t miss: 10 things we love and hate about the iPad →
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