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Six questions for Apple on the new iAd mobile network

By Adam Grenier

Apple CEO Steve Jobs? hard sell last week for the new iAd mobile ad platform has raised as many questions as it answers. Will Mr. Jobs or someone at Apple address these key issues raised here?

Before I dive into the questions on Apple?s new iPhone-based iAd ad model, here is my perspective on two highlights of the service.

First, iAd offers a feature- and visually rich option for mobile ads.

While Greystripe has been doing these ads for some time now, and even AdMob, Millennial Media, Quattro Wireless and others have offered similar rich variations, it has not been the focus for most advertisers for several reasons, cost and reach among them.

IAd is likely going to see great scale right off the bat. If that is the case, it will definitely open the eyes of marketers to the rich potential of advertising in the mobile space.

Next, iAd is built directly into the iPhone developer kit. Compared to any other ad network or service it is likely going to offer the easiest option for developers to display ads within their applications.

As simple as existing installations are, for someone outside of the ad industry I think it will be very important.

After praising Caesar ?
If you do not know any developers personally, let me share one thing with you: they hate, HATE advertisements. It is a necessary evil for them and is a secondary ? if not 50th ? thought behind the application itself.

If it is a simple ?Do you want it, Y/N? it removes any time needed to implement current ad solutions.

While many of the statements Apple CEO Steve Jobs made last week about advertisers not being able to ?be emotional? in the digital space and no one doing mobile ads effectively straight up p---ed me off, I accept that this iAd announcement and technology is going to affect our industry greatly.

Depending on where you sit, it can be good or bad.

Rather than dive into that, I would like to present a few questions I have that I imagine several of you are feeling as well.

I doubt many can be answered immediately, so I simply hope it sparks some good conversation and makes us all continue to think constructively as our media continues to take shape.

1. Will there be Mobile Marketing Association regulations around the ads?
One of the most important things to advertisers is being able to reach their audience.

The Apple iPhone offers reach today, but its market share is going to decrease as competitors refine their offering. Add on any international advertising or reaching the vast amount of users on a non-smartphone and fewer campaigns are going to require iPhone-exclusive targeting.

Can you imagine if you had to create a separate ad for Mac, Windows and Linux users? Each ad rendition requires time, resources and dollars. The Interactive Advertising Bureau and Mobile Marketing Association recommendations are there to help make advertising more platform agnostic.

2. Will iAd placements run standard ads in addition to the rich expandable ads?
Apple is clearly pushing the benefits of a rich ad experience on its devices. But is that all it is going to offer? Or will it offer both standard ads and the expandable, rich, interactive units?

There are two key reasons this needs to be answered.

First, not all campaigns need it. More digital ad dollars are spent on direct response than brand campaigns.

If all I want is someone to download my application or an ad to drive traffic to a WAP site, I likely do not need a fully interactive banner.

Next, as mentioned above, ads are a necessary evil to developers. While there are advantages of having the experience occur without removing the user from your application, they might not want the ad to expand over their whole experience.

My guess here is that is that they will. Apple owns Quattro, which can just port these new ad spaces into its existing network. If that is the case, the question then remains if the developer will have a choice.

3. Will there be enough traffic to monetize and satisfy developer expectation?
If the platform does stick only with rich ads, there is a large possibility that Apple would alienate much of the long tail from being able to advertise with them.

Yes, there are lots of people who can make these highly interactive ads, but they do not make them for free.

Many advertisers simply will not ? or cannot ? shell out the budget to build them. It is simple math: tons of applications on the network + limited advertisers = excessive remnant inventory to which no other network can provide ads.

Will you get Apple ads whenever it does not have a paid ad to serve? Will the developer still make its 60 percent cut? Will advertisers want their expensive ads running on iFart or just ESPN? Will iFart be bummed when the really cool ads are not showing up on its application?

I am not sure about the scale of this concern, but Apple could potentially be leading developers into a situation where they will not make as much from their ad space.

4. If I stay in the existing application, can I use the App Store?
One of the biggest drawbacks of marketing in the mobile space is measuring ROI accurately.

IPhone ads promoting an application add the additional barrier of the App store, so you cannot seamlessly see which ad drove which events after the download. There are some workarounds for this, but from my experience there is no perfect solution.

Enter the iAd and you might have a solution.

If I could open the App Store right in the ad itself and iPhone 4.0 lets you open attachments into an application, you would be able to have the click command link ? or deep link ? directly into the newly downloaded application.

5. Can individuals or other networks use the iAd technology and manage it independent of Apple?
I am digging deep now, and doubt Apple would open it up like this, but what if you want an exclusive sponsor for your application, but still offer the iAd experience?

Can you, as a developer, circumvent having Apple approve, monetize and set up the campaign?

And if the above question regarding the App Store is true, will Apple make that function available for other ad networks?

6. Who is approving the ads? Do the developers have a say?
One thing that Mr. Jobs made clear during his presentation is that while it will not be as strict, Apple plans on having approval rights over the ads. Does this scare anyone else?

Having 185,000 applications in the App Store in two years is one thing ? but millions of ad variations across thousands of brands, categories and countries? That is a whole different ballgame.

Hopefully this is a simple publisher-based directive, but if not, it could be a huge hurdle for marketers.

Publishers already do some quality control on ads, but Apple being new to the advertising game might not be prepared to manage this in an appropriate way.

THESE ARE definitely gut-reaction questions, but I hope they are enough to fuel some good conversation.

The iAd could easily be the most impactful move in the mobile marketing world since Zack Morris featured his Motorola DynaTAC on the 1980s sitcom, ?Saved by the Bell.? It could crash and burn.

It is understandable that Mr. Jobs needed to be confident, but the presentation came across as ?Of course, you?ll give us your marketing dollars? then a ?We hope this inspires the industry to grow with us.?

Fortunately, this market is full of incredibly intelligent people and I am sure our constructive thoughts about Apple and other providers will ensure this growth.

Adam Grenier is marketing manager of mobile at Zoosk Inc., San Francisco. Reach him at .