Apple to sell iAds programmatically to jump-start stalling mobile ad business

Apple is to let advertisers purchase mobile app inventory through programmatic buying as it seeks out new ways to make its advertising ecosystem more accessible.

Apple will let brands use programmatic buying to buy its mobile media in a bid to boost its share of ad revenues.
Apple will let brands use programmatic buying to buy its mobile media in a bid to boost its share of ad revenues.

The technology giant will sell iAd campaigns worldwide using the relatively new form of trading in the hope of lifting the value of its mobile ads against those from Google and Facebook. It aims to position the fledgling ad format for the more performance-conscious companies.

Advertisers will be to use first party data customer data from iTunes and the App Store to target iAd campaigns across iOS devices and within apps. Inventory will be sold via ad technology company Rubicon Project’s exchange in what will serve as a global marketplace.

A statement from Rubicon Project about the venture, which went up earlier today (19 November) but has since been taken down after Business Insider first reported it, said: “Apple’s iAd provides 400+ targeting options to advertisers, based on hundreds of millions of validated iTunes accounts worldwide. This rich first party data asset makes it easy for buyers to target the specific mobile audiences of their choice, be that moms, business travellers, golfers, opera fans, etc.”

The offering is powered by an updated API for Apple’s automated buying platform, iAd Workbench. The latest version lets advertisers create and update campaigns, retrieve analytics and manage bids directly through their own systems.

iAd’s move into the programmatic space is also powered by ad technology companies  The Trade Desk, GET IT Mobile, Accordant Media, Adelphic, and AdRoll.

Apple has traditionally kept close guard of customer data but the tie-ups suggests it is more willing to share with advertisers for the sake of growing iAd. Apple has admitted mobile ads are still a “small” part of its business and has struggled to win ad budgets despite numerous attempts to make it more appealing to brands.

Earlier this year, Apple opened the iAd ecosystem to non-registered mobile app developers in the hope of accelerating the number of iAds on the market. The technology firm launched the ad format in 2011, promising a more targeted, premium solution for advertisers. However, pricey offerings and limited reach conspired to dent the impact of its launch and Apple has struggled to lift takeup ever since.

Going programmatic represents a gamble for Apple in light of both iAd’s troubled history and the moves from Facebook and Google to become major forces in premium mobile ad inventory. Both companies are tightening their grip on the tech-driven buying process to boost the value of their ads amid wavering enthusiasm for mobile from advertisers.

Apple hinted it was planning a bigger push for mobile ad spend last month with its latest software update. Brands can now retarget ads based on users’ in-app browsing behaviours, paving the way for cross-device retargeting. It is similar to how Facebook pitched its relaunched Atlas platform, with Apple providing an alternative solution to the mobile cookie problem that has hampered targeting to date.

Rubicon Project did not respond to a request for comment by the time this article was published.

Want to know more about programmatic? Attend Marketing Week and Econsultancy’s “Get with the Programmtic” event in association with AppNexus on 4 December. Go to marketing for more details.

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