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“Have you ever seen an ad like this… anything close?” (cue: canned laughter)

This is how Steve Jobs ended his first demonstration of iAd using HTML 5 at the recent iPhone OS4 event.

Now I might be an Apple fan-boy, but sorry Steve, this time I really do think you are away with the pixies. The monetisation of content – whether in media or applications – is totally respectable. But the whole concept of an application developer becoming primarily responsible for driving advertising on mobiles? Laughable.

It is as if in Apple’s terms rich media has just been discovered. Except for most of us, it’s kind of like ten years old already, and any rich media vendor worth their salt is already developing rich media ads for mobile browsers and applications. Yes, they will work across ALL mobile handsets, including the iPhone and iPad. Yes they will work within apps. Yes like all rich media the user will be able to experience the brand right where they are. It should all go without saying, really. Certainly Eyeblaster seems to think so

A key issue with mobile is that it is not as straight forward as connecting an agency system to a publisher system via a third party server in the way we do with the web – due to the many, many variants of how mobile has grown up organically without central direction. Yet, mostly it’s because each publisher wants to OWN the data, the process – they want complete control. I have seen this happen in inStream, it’s happening in out-of-home, and equally it’s happening within mobile. Guys, when will you realise that in order for scalability, there needs to be openness coupled with an agency interface, independent validation and external qualification?

The whole concept of third party ad servers is that they act as conduit between media owner and developer and do so in a way that is across networks and/or territorial boundaries – in as streamlined a manner as possible. Because digital is beyond pretty gimmicks, its down right complicated.

I want to compare the same campaign in France vs Germany. I want to compare the ads on Yahoo! vs MSN. I want to compare ads between a Nokia N-series vs an iPhone. I want to know that frequency works around the user, that sequencing messages works around the consumer’s exposure and interaction – across networks, across territories, and eventually across media. I need a single point of tracking between sites, potentially between devices. Why? Because ad ‘frequency’ is a basic necessity of any media strategist looking to build a relationship with the consumer; neither wanting to over burden the end user with too many intrusive ads, nor over charge the advertiser through wastage. I simply cannot do this when I lock data within one publisher environment – web, out-of-home or mobile.

The most positive thing we have seen in display media is the ability to see how display does not drive ever declining clicks – but how active engagement via Dwell leads consumers to increase their search for further information. This is the heart of cross-channel. I need collated data to do that. Linking display and search was serious progress for a fragmented industry. That is what modern ad serving is becoming about: integration of data points and exchanges to reuse data for targeting.

iAd launched at iPhone 0S4 keynote

So with Apple’s vision for hosting their own ads – even if we forget the Flash v HTML 5 argument for a moment – I would like to know of what value this will be to the agency’s, the advertisers, even the programmers who will invariably end up trying to build ads for certain clients with potentially no regard for corporate guidelines. Increase in pressure, for less reward? The ability to serve a rich media ad is one thing but we all know its much bigger then that. Process time. Data. Evidence of success to the person with their hand on the purse strings.

Am I really going to expect an already over-worked designer to now have to create a plethora of ads in different systems and ultimately offer no data-correlation to their media strategist – just for the sake of offering the latest gimmick to an advertiser? Mobile advertising needs to be about progress. Not one step forward and ten steps back. And if you think Apple will build them all for you, I have two points on this; A. Scalability – good luck! B. Creative agencies prepared to merely hand over build to someone else and losing all brand control don’t deserve the advertiser’s account in the first place…

It’s also about reach, about making the numbers stack up. It’s not just those who have installed apps, but are both actively using them regularly and equally prepared to engage with ads within them. The jury’s still out on that one. There are only a few of the many installed apps I use each day, for example. Then there are the ads themselves. Urmm, Apple, all your cool stuff is hidden behind a static ad with a click through. We’ve all realised this is not the most natural consumer behaviour a fair while back now. As a point of reference, all other handsets will use animation to grab the users attention, trigger the response and lead them into the interaction – maybe because they use Flash?

Full-screen video in an ad. Download wallpaper. Link to GPS. Heck, we have even thought about call-back and add to favourites, augmented realty and visual search, couponing and data collection, link to bar-code readers… and even how it will link to out-of-home ads. And of course location-based targeted ads sequenced against the consumer life-cycle across devices – and that’s just the tip of the ice-berg for an ad server. Process systems working around agencies pain-points have been moulded in excruciating fires and formed under pressure over the last ten years.

Cupertino. Seriously. Lay off the coke and wake up and smell the coffee. In fact, Steve maybe I’ll pop round a bring you a steaming large latte… or a nice hot cup of tea. I think we need to talk.