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IAd lacks the reach brands are looking for: Publicis exec

NEW YORK ? A panel at the digiday: Mobile conference debated the Apple iAd network?s pros?engaging rich media?and cons?lack of cross-platform reach.

Moderated by John Gaffney, senior editor at digiday, New York, the panel consisted of an ad agency executive, a mobile measurement and research analyst and two competing mobile rich-media ad vendors. Panelists? reactions to iAd were generally ambivalent.

?With iAd, you?re able to take a banner ad that would usually pop up and take you away from an app to a mobile Web site, and instead create a real rich in-app experience that can take advantage of Apple device features such as the accelerometer,? said Jami Lawrence, associate director of mobile marketing at Publicis Modem, New York.

?However, it?s a really small audience?from a scale perspective not really there,? she said. ?For iAd to make sense, you have to be a client targeting an Apple techy audience, because all of the other platforms are left out?even the original iPhone and 3G are left out, and only iPod touch who have chosen to upgrade will see the iAds.?

Even though Apple is planning to integrate iAd within iPad applications later this month, Apple devices still represent a minority of mobile users.

Spendy campaigns
Another concern panelists addressed is the question of cost. With a minimum spend of $1 million and launch advertisers doling out $10 million, budget-conscious brands need not apply.

From a developer perspective, joining iAd means giving 40 percent of the profits to Apple.

?Forty percent is a lot to give away in terms of revenue for these developers?it goes straight into Apple?s pocket, so it?s a big choice for a developer,? Ms. Lawrence said. ?Our partners that decided to work with Apple initially at launch, the money came from their digital budget or an experimental budget.

?In general we?re working with brands that have very small mobile budgets, between $20,000 and $50,000 for a campaign, so it?s not efficient for me to recommend something like iAd when I?m trying to pull maximum reach for my clients,? she said. ?For iAd you have to be willing to understand you?re making an experimental splash.

?It?s really a PR move.?

All about measurement
Another frequent criticism of iAd is the lack of transparency in terms of metrics.

Click-through rate is a limited metric, to say the least.

Brands care about ROI, and ad networks must prove that to satisfy advertisers, especially the big spenders.

?We don?t really care about CTR, we want to know how many people accessed the store locator of mobile Web site,? Ms. Lawrence said. ?With a CPG client, we do a lot of mobile coupon distribution and we track the number of people who requested a coupon.

?There are always ROI metrics that we look at for every mobile campaign,? she said. ?It really comes down to measurement and ad tracking, but there are not a lot of analytics that can be taken from iAd.

?We do implement DART?we want great third-party ad tracking to confirm that we reached the audience and reached the engagement level we were looking for.?

Steve Jobs notoriously once said that mobile ads suck, and iAd is his company?s attempt to create better ads.

Apple is also frequently hyperbolic when it comes to promoting its products, which has led to strong sales of its devices.

However, running a mobile ad network is new territory for Apple, and with competition in the mobile ad space at a fever pitch, iAd cannot afford to overpromise and underdeliver.

Panelists Tom Foran, chief revenue officer of Crisp Wireless, New York, and Erica Chriss, New York-based vice president of strategy and business development at Greystripe, both touted their respective platforms as good multiplatform alternatives to iAd.

?Think about the sizzle of iAds, what Apple promises versus the reality and what people are responding to,? said Evan Neufeld, vice president of marketing at GroundTruth, New York. ?I agree that it?s not scalable, but it is a large audience brands can target?it?s a walled garden but iAd is relatively appealing to brands looking to target the limited audience Apple has.

?I can see what people are attracted to, but Apple is not an ad sales company?it doesn?t have experience with it,? he said. ?They are saying give me a million dollars or $10 million and you?re not going to get measurements.

?The amount Apple gets?40 percent?is pretty ridiculous, and if I were a brand I?d want a neutral third party to verify impression count and provide additional metrics to measure success.?

Here are images of the panel:

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Marketer