Jun 10

Welcome, iAds … maybe

One juicy part of the new iOS platform is iAds. Presented with much fanfare, iAds let developers put ads inside their apps, so people can plunge into an ad without leaving the app. Apple owns a burgeoning new in-app ad market, and developers own a new revenue stream.

Only one flaw with this plan: we have to look at the ads. In the frenzy over all the money this will make — for developers and for Apple — it’s easy to forget a basic fact of marketing. Nobody actually likes ads.

I’m reminded of the project briefs that were handed out to creative teams at one of my previous agencies. Every brief started with the same paragraph, which went something like this:

The customers don’t like you. They didn’t invite you in. They resent the intrusion. They wish you’d just go away. Now then … what were you going to say to them?

My point is, ads aren’t exactly the #1 draw in customers’ minds.

Sure, ads help make the world go ’round. But they’re also the number one cause of distraction and clutter. It’s not just you and me who think ads get in the way. Apple thinks it too. One of the coolest new features in Safari 5 is Reader — which allows the reader to strip the ads out of articles, making them easier to read.

So on one hand, Apple creates a whole new way to get ads into our lives. On the other, they create a whole new way to take ads out of our lives.

This gives my inner cynic a lot to work with.

First there’s the fact that Apple takes a cool 40% cut on every iAd, while they have zero financial interest in the ads Safari strips away. Second, there’s the perception that the iAd platform is so cool, the ads will be cool. Uh, right. And then there’s the idea that the added revenue from iAds will help developers keep their app prices down, or even make them free. Don’t hold your breath for that one.

Mind you, I’m not complaining — just pointing out some sobering truths. Ads are a fact of life, and Apple has done a great job of creating a rich platform they can control and profit by. I just don’t expect to be squealing with delight as iAds begin to sprout up across all my favorite apps.

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  • Bud

    Safari’s Reader is not an ad blocker. As I’m sure you know, everything on the page, including ads, gets loaded before the reader button appears.

    Some sites I’ve used Reader on included an ad in the reformatted page, i.e. ads can still show up if they’re in the article body.

    I would guess the only ads that are “blocked” are ones that Safari strips out from multi-page articles. (And I think it’s high time sites stop the multi-page BS just for page views anyway.)

    Most apps are already as low priced as they can get ($.99) or free. The problem for many devs is that costs exceed revenue.

    I hate ads, but I’m looking forward to clicking on iAds and seeing if they’re any good.

  • Kesey

    Lets not forget AT&T’s new data plans. Are people with a monthly megabyte allowance going to spend it on iAds?

  • Tim

    The internets isn’t free. Strange how people somehow forget that. You’re paying one way or another. It’s a bean-counter-thing, not an annoy Ken thing.

  • ken segall

    Right you are. I admit I am something of an anomaly. Though I have spent my professional life creating ads, my particular crowd has always been mindful of the fact that most people consider ads to be an intrusion. We need to be respectful of people’s time, and careful not to oversaturate the environment with too many messages. Unfortunately, with so many companies vying for our attention, and too few people exercising restraint, things get messy. The trend is toward more noise, not less. That’s one reason why I like Safari Reader. It allows me that moment of quiet to focus on an article.

    The model I prefer isn’t exactly new. Some apps contain ads to generate more revenue, but offer users an ad-free version for a few bucks more. Seems like a win-win to me. You can have it whichever way you like it, and extra money is generated either way.

    My only fear about iAds is that it will make in-app ads as ubiquitous as ads on web pages. And we won’t always have the option to opt out…