In iPhone application development, as well as the new media “pull” model of consumption, you have two evils you can often choose from. You can have a service or content module be free with advertisements, or cost money without them. Since most people have become accustomed to receiving content for free through internet publication and the increasing sociability of piracy it is hard to ask people to pay for most iPhone applications. At the same time this has caused for an incredible wave of branding that has compromised communication and content, forcing everything in the direction of commercialization and advertising. It is in this final sell out that Apple is releasing iAd, the mobile advertising of the future. It is with iAd that Apple will revolutionize the way that advertising appears in free iPhone applications, and will make it a pervasive staple of your mobile experience. That’s right: advertising has found a permanent home on your cell phone.
Applications, or software in general, has often been thought of in the realm of pure content. This is to say that within it there are no advertisements because the entire application is meant to be consumed as directed by the artist or developer. In this way it works similar to books, movies, or music, which may have commercialization around them but not right in them. As everyone knows, this is changing as the technology changes.
What Apple’s iAd hopes to achieve is a more “interactive” ad experience inside free iPhone applications. What this means is essentially ad speak for more attractive advertising that is intended to make users forget that they are looking at a commercial. iAd is part of the iPhone 4.0 updates that will try to reshape the way that stock advertising is used in applications. Currently iPhone developers, especially small ones, will use the standard advertising set up that Apple can include for them. This is responsible for the tacky banner ads that you see in so many free iPhone applications. iAd will change that in that it will include more immersive advertisements that will go full screen, have music and video playback, and even allow for some type of gaming interface.
This is exactly as invasive as it sounds, but on the other hand it may be more aesthetic than what we have grown used to. These advertisements will encompass all of your use when they do and try to absolve you into the brand image of the company in question. Apple gave several examples in its iPhone 4.0 announcement of the iAd. This included a Nike advertisement that allowed you to build a custom shoe, a Target one that let you customize a dorm room, and a Toy Story 3 commercial that gave you a whole host of branded “fun.”
What Apple is setting up with iAd is a method for them to sell and host advertisements like was done previous. What will be essentially different about iAd is that Apple will fork over a full sixty percent of the ad revenue to the developer. The ads themselves will be marked out in HTML5 because of the iPhone’s software limitations, and there is still talk of Apple using the same Checka like hold on ad content as they do at the iTunes’ App Store.
iAd is not going to wholly replace the banner ad design that is standard on the iPhone right now, but now ads are going to be right in the regular part of the interface. This is an injection of brand image into the very heart of the applications themselves, not off to the side where we have trained ourselves not to look for fear of consumer overload. Steve Jobs has laid this out as being a constant contact with consumers. He has stated that most users spend about a half hour with their iPhone apps, and if you get an ad every three minutes or so, that would mean that there would be a billion ad messages sent every day on iPhone’s, iPads, and iPod Touch’s.
Why iAd is important is that it is taking the technology of the iPhone and developing advertisements that are essentially unavoidable. In this way they have forced in advertising on a device that has gained its popularity by allowing people to define how they consume media. This is both revolutionary and frightening, especially since it seems like iAd is only the beginning of what is to come. At the same time it is important to note what this will do for small iPhone application developers. Currently it is hard for smaller iPhone devs to really come against the big boys, which is a direct parallel of what is happening with the Big 5 media conglomerates who own eighty five percent of the market. This completely limits the ability for democratic communication and entertainment, and it important to attack this problem on the iPhone while it is still young.