How Apple can (will) redefine Mobile Advertising?

How Apple can (will) redefine Mobile Advertising?

The predictions for mobile advertising M&A are finally coming true esp. the big ones with Google getting Admob and Apple snapping up Quattro, and there are others that are being planned right now, but who sets the tone going forward, who redefines the next evolutionary phase of mobile advertising, who sets the bar, who attracts the most campaigns and developers?

In our Mobile Advertising book, we had introduced the 5 point framework to think about mobile advertising. Since then, it has been adopted by major mobile advertising players and advertisers as a way to plan, manage, and monitor their efforts and campaigns.


The key elements of the framework are: Reach, Engagement, Targeting, Viral, and Transactions. Reach is always important and will remain the first filter applied to most campaigns, engagement has gotten better but many campaigns are still in dark ages, targeting has improved but still way below its potential, am still surprised that companies don’t embed a way to share in each and every aspect of the campaigns, and as far as the transaction is concerned, we are not even closed. Very few companies have “closed the loop.”

1. Reach – How many unique customers can you reach?

2. Targeting – Mobile thrives on targeting. Ad networks that can provide targeting beyond country, carrier, and handsets to location, demographic and context will be the ones offering more value to both the advertisers and the publishers. Table below lists some of the options available from some of the leading players in the ecosystem.

3. Engagement – One has to move away from just counting the number of clicks or the number landing page impressions and quickly start measuring engagements in the form of time spent, number of times content was saved or forwarded across the many mobile channels.

4. Viral – One of the key features of mobile is its ability of one-click sharing. If something is "good," it will catch-on fast. One has to only target the 1% power-users to reach 20-50% of the subscriber base. Such capability should be built into every campaign and measured accurately to determine its true effectiveness.

5. Transactions – As we mentioned before, mobile enables a closed loop functionality like no other medium. Transactions is essentially to measure the "true" ROA.

I have long argued that w/o the “closed loop,” advertising is a lot of waste with no real ROI. Advertisers can feel good about the creatives but if it is not yielding results, what are you smoking? If it is giving results, but you can’t measure it, then how can someone be trusted with yet another multi-million dollar campaign. I know this is the way things have been done for decades but over the last 24 months, things have been tilting towards digital, towards measurability, towards accountability. A number of big brands have stopped, i mean completely stopped spending money on print, radio and moving to digital.

This brings us back to the original question – who redefines the mobile advertising ecosystem and it very well might be Apple and the reason will be the iTunes platform, for the same reason Apple Appstore crushes every single appstore out there, the reason Google Android Marketplace hasn’t been successful – it is the billing, stupid.

By having a good control over the billing piece, Apple can provide an excellent end-to-end user experience and on the back-end measure every bit of information that can inform the developer, advertiser, Apple of what’s going on, discover trends much before the mainstream media does.

Apple can do the same thing with advertising – by providing a much more rich platform for engagement advertising i.e. the ads become much more engaging than the stale banner ads that go no where, you don’t loose the original page or app while navigating to an add.

It is quite likely, Apple will build a solid advertising platform that empowers developers and advertisers to truly harness the power of mobile advertising by providing the closed loop lab for experimenting and learning while keeping competitors at bay. So, who can compete with this strong proposition – Google and Carriers but Google Checkout has had  limited success and integrating with Carrier billing is not straightforward.

So, just like how Apple redefined the music industry, redefined the device industry, redefined the apps industry, it might very well redefine the mobile advertising industry. It has got the smarts, the vision, and the arsenal to make it all happen.