December 22, 2010
Since iAd Producer debuted for developers on Monday, I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with a few Apple support and sales agents about iAd and how it fits in with the ad agency model of doing business (at least as I’ve experienced it).
- iAds are for large, nationwide campaigns. Apple is looking to land “large, national brands” according to the sales agent I corresponded with. Smaller, regional or local campaigns don’t yet have a place in the iAd network. Individual and corporate developers, of course, are welcome to promote their iOS apps, specifically, using iAds, with the iAd for Developers program.
- To test your ads on Apple’s servers, you must have a media buy and contract in place. The iAd Test Server is meant as a last step before deployment, and is available only to the group that has the iAd contract with Apple, and has paid the money to place the ad. While the sales rep didn’t say specifically, it stands to reason that either the client (that is, the brand that’s placing the ad) or their agency (who is buying media on behalf of the client) can arrange this contract. It’s unclear, though, what the terms of the contract are — and if they restrict who exactly Apple’s relationship is with.
- Where does that leave small service providers, like Honest Code? Pretty much nowhere. Even though, as an industry segment, we could be a lucrative funnel for iAd contracts, Apple is making no overtures to digital service providers. The Apple sales rep I corresponded with said, “you would need to have one of the agencies you work with reach out to us with an interested, large advertiser account. [That] advertiser would need to sign a contract before you could get [their] ad … tested and certified to run on the iAd Network.”
Fine and dandy. You’re a Fortune 100 client with eleventy billion dollars to spend. Apple deems you worthy of an iAd contract, and you’ve got one in place. The work to produce the iAd finally trickles down to the service provider (namely me) to implement the creative and strategic vision the client has. What sort of limitations are there to the iAd format you should be aware of?
- No outbound links are allowed from the iAd. That’s right, once the user is in an iAd, they’re in a room with one door. Alternatively, iAds can be just like traditional web banner ads, and just take the user to a website. However, if your iAd has pages and menus and videos, you can’t close the iAd to send the user to another website. “That’s part of its beauty,” says one Apple support rep. “The user is in charge of closing an iAd.”
- So what can you do? You can:
- Save images to the local device. (Perhaps a coupon with a barcode.)
- Purchase content from iTunes.
- Add calendar events.
- Compose an email or SMS message.
The support rep also said that iAds could initiate phone calls with a user’s permission, but I’ve seen no documentation on how exactly to do that. Using HTML and the MobileSafari “tel:” URL scheme sounds like the easiest way, but that violates the “no outbound links” rule already established. I’m waiting for a final answer on that.
- You can have as many pages as you want within the iAd. All is not lost. Whatever information you might have communicated to the user elsewhere on the Internet can be built into the iAd with relative ease, provided the content fits with iAd’s bandwidth requirements (less than 100K for each image, and 10 MB for each movie, roughly).
These rules make a lot of sense, as a user, and I think that most ad agencies will fall in line if their clients (large clients, at least) want to play by Apple’s rules (which, historically, has been a good decision). I hope that — like any ad network — once Apple has some good bread-and-butter clients, they’ll start accepting smaller ad campaigns, and maybe even develop relationships with smaller agencies and service providers.
December 21, 2010
I’ve had the morning to toy around with iAd Producer, now available from Apple if you’re a registered iOS developer. It hits a real sweet spot for me, personally, as I have more than a handful of ad agency clients whose customers are undoubtedly interested in having some of these ads produced. Speaking technically, the app excitingly blends graphic design, user experience planning, web development, and iOS development.
iAds behave more-or-less like self-contained mini-sites. At minimum, they must contain:
- A banner (that the user will tap to bring up the iAd)
- A loading screen (that may or may not contain a pre-roll video)
- A content screen
Optionally, iAds can contain:
- A menu of pages
- As many sub-pages as you want (all on the same level)
Testing iAds is simple enough — you can use either the iPhone Simulator (via a helpful iAd Tester app) or in Safari. It appears that you can test iAds on a mobile handset, but since I don’t have an iPhone or iPod touch cable of running iOS 4.0 or above (sad trombone) I couldn’t get it to work. I would assume iAd Producer can somehow install iAd Tester on a compatible networked handset.
One can also upload iAds to the iAd Test Server. This seems a little mysterious as yet, and I’ve contacted Apple for a little more information about how this works — that is, as a service provider, and not someone buying media.
In any case, iAd Producer is a very useful tool that will allow even non-technical designers at ad agencies to produce appealing, complex iAd units with minimal effort. How iAds fit into the traditional agency model of designing, buying, and placing media, however, is a story for another day.