Category Archives: Advertising

Discussion of online advertising programs and strategies.

Looks Like the iAd Hasn’t Cracked Mobile Advertising

Apple's iAd Hasn't Cracked Mobile Advertising

Over a year after Apple announced the iAd advertising format that was supposed to revolutionize mobile advertising, we heard absolutely nothing about it at yesterday’s developer conference in San Francisco.

Apple trotted out impressive stats about all kinds of things, but there was no mention about iAd penetration, revenue driven, or new capabilities.

Apple doesn’t really miss opportunities to talk about their success, so it’s probably safe to say that the iAd has been a bit of a disappointment so far.

The Hope

When Apple launched the iAd, people had high hopes for what they might be able to do for the mobile advertising industry. A lot of the common thinking was that Apple had revolutionized so many other industries, that perhaps they could do something new and amazing with these high quality mobile ads.

While Apple wasn’t in the advertising business like other companies, people thought their creativity and successful ad campaigns of their own might allow them to take mobile advertising to a new level.

Not so fast my friend.

The Results

Dan Frommer from AlleyInsider did an article about the iAd progress in March. Some notable things in it were that the price of iAds was cut in half, there was a mixed reaction from agencies, and that the iAd sales team had lost a bunch of people.

Outside of the advertising industry, I don’t feel like the iAd has had much impact either. As a user of many iPhone apps, I can’t ever recall even seeing an iAd. Perhaps I have, but if so it definitely wasn’t memorable. And I’m somebody who actually cares about advertising!

The Future

Apple can obviously choose to do what they want and experiment wherever they want. However, I’m not sure advertising is in their core DNA. After all, at the developer conference yesterday Steve Jobs himself said in reference to their mail product:

“No ads,” he boasted. “We build products that we want for ourselves, too, and we just don’t want ads.”

That doesn’t sound like the CEO of a company that really is 100% behind mobile advertising.

Has Jobs learned that “mobile display ads” don’t work? Has Apple just struggled to gain traction?

Or perhaps, is mobile advertising just going to really take off when it’s entirely different and more of the form of location-based deals? But doesn’t that only work for local businesses? How do national brands get in front of people on their mobile device?

The answers still aren’t there, but as more of people’s computing time AND entertainment time shifts to their mobile devices, you can bet there will be a lot of companies trying to figure out how to get in front of people. Just don’t expect Apple to solve it.

Will Facebook’s Climb Up The Display Advertising Charts Last?

Facebook Rockerts up the Display Charts

From Silicon Alley Insider Chart of the Day

As seen in the image, Facebook is growing like mad in the display advertising space with a trajectory that is vastly different than any of the other major players in the space. That growth is borderline shocking, but shouldn’t be that surprising for anyone who’s been following their user growth as well.
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Washington Post Digital Advertising Critique Gets Critiqued by Me

Vintage Newspaper Ad
In the Washington Post over the weekend Frederic Filloux asks “Why is digital advertising so lousy?”.

That’s a loaded question of a headline firmly entrenched with Frederic’s opinion leading us down the path of lousiness. That being said, I don’t know that anyone can argue that digital advertising is at the place where it needs to be in order to deserve the large shift of advertising spend that will eventually move online from offline. But is it lousy? Does it deserve the tongue lashing Frederic gives it? As a whole, it does not, but of course there are portions of it which do. The same could be said for television and print magazine. Are we to believe that all TV and print ads are high quality and perfect?

Not only that, some of Frederic’s arguments don’t make any sense so let’s take those head on:

Let’s face it. On digital media, advertising hasn’t delivered. In the news business, we have a rule of thumb: An electronic reader brings 15 to 20 times less in advertising revenue than a print reader does.

Frederic uses this to say that digital advertising has missed it’s target. Even he points out though that there are many other factors that play into this. Besides that though, perhaps this isn’t just a case of digital advertising not being effective, but some of this should be attributed to measurement. What do I mean by measurement?

Well, offline advertising does not have the same tracking mechanisms and analytics that digital ads have. We know the actual physical response that digital ads create, and can back those actions into ROI metrics against our ad spend. We don’t have that luxury with offline advertising, so it’s much easier to overcharge advertisers in the offline world. Additionally, digital advertising gets little to no credit for it’s brand building impact, for digital ads influencing offline purchases, for digital ads influencing online searches and purchases but not directly from an ad click, etc. While these indirect things are attributed to offline ads without any real measurement, and they can charge more for it. What gives?

While Frederic might say that digital ads bring in 15-20 less ad revenue as an offline reader, I’d tend to say that perhaps offline ads are 5-10 times more expensive than they should be.

They end up as fodder for ad-blocking systems. Unfortunately, these defense mechanisms are thriving. A Google query for “ad block” yields 1.25 million pages that send you to dozens of browser add-ons. On Firefox, AdBlockPlus is the most used extension, with more than 80 million downloads and more than 10 million active users. The same goes for Chrome, whose ad-blocking extension is downloaded at a rate of 100,000 times a week and now has more than 1 million users. For Internet Explorer, there are simply too many add-ons to count.

Wait, so because people use ad blockers that means digital ads suck? What’s the comparison here? There’s really no equivalent of digital ads in the offline world so this is a stupid comparison. The only thing close to an offline ad blocker would be the DVR allowing people to skip commercials. And those haven’t been popular right? Of course they have. Either online or offline, people generally do not like advertising and chose to ignore it or block it in any way possible. No matter how creative or good an ad might be, there will always be internet users who will want to block any and all ads. If there were an offline equivalent that allowed people to block newspaper, magazine, and TV ads, don’t you think those same people would block them? Of course they would.

Another sign of the ad-design failure is Apple’s decision. Not only does Apple enter the mobile-ad business as a sales house, but Jobs’s company will also design ads, for a hefty $50,000 to $100,000 fee. Apple’s message is that the profession needs to reboot advertising graphical standards. How strange to see a technology company giving lectures on design to the very people who prided themselves for their creative brilliance.

I generally agree with Frederic that ad design can improve. But there are also already many great ad implementations that have been done, and many more that will be done. While this happens, there will still be lousy ads. In fact, there will be a lot. You know why? These lousy ads actually drive A LOT of direct response, and in turn revenue. Does Frederic think that all these ugly and annoying banners exist simply because there are no good designers? On the contrary, almost all of them are intentionally designed to be ugly and annoying to catch the eye and draw the click. I’ve seen the ad results of when people test nicely designed ads vs. lousy and annoying ads. Guess which one generally draws the most clicks and revenue? Yep, the lousy ones. If we measured brand-building impact, then the results might be different.

Apple getting into the ad design business is a sign that they feel that ad design can get better. I’d also argue though they are doing it to charge advertisers an arm and a leg, to get closer to them, and to cut out middlemen and give themselves more of the profit. It’s not simply that they think ads suck.

Frederic’s last points about ads being bought and sold in too much of a tech or engineering point of view has some truth to it, but should that really be surprising at this stage of the game? We’re talking about a computer-driven world, it’s natural for the tech people to be leading the charge. Rest assured Frederic, good ad design will catch up, there’s too much money at stake for it not to do so.

New Twitter Ad Platforms Open Up Opportunities

In the last few days we’ve had two announcements about advertising platforms based on Twitter in TweetUp and Promoted Tweets, even though Twitter is claiming their “Promoted Tweets” aren’t actually ads.
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Did Google Buy AdMob for Ads, Data, or Both?

One of the biggest acquisitions in the advertising and technology space over the past couple of years occurred this week Google recently purchased AdMob for $750 million in stock.

There has been considerable speculation about why Google not only purchased Admob, but spent so much money in doing so. The obvious off the cuff answer is to get their hooks into the mobile display advertising space by acquiring the most well-known mobile ad network. Some people such as Niki Scevak don’t think that’s a particularly good idea, and others such as Silicon Alley Insider seemed to have to work a bit to justify it.
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66% Of People Surveyed Don’t Want Personalized Ads

Privacy SignThe New York Times covered an independent survey of 1,000 Americans that reveals that 66% of people do not want online ads that are personally targeted for them. The percentage went even higher when they explained to people the methods used to do this targeting such as tracking their behavior on the web and even in offline stores. As Congress and the FTC looks harder at privacy matters in online advertising, should online marketers be scared of studies like this?
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AdAge’s 2009 Ad Network and Exchange Guide

AdAge produced some good content on the the state of ad networks and ad exchanges in 2009. There’s numerous articles on a number of topics, but “Why Ad Exchanges are Picking Up Steam” hits closest to home for me being a Yahoo. I may update this with some more thoughts when I get a moment…

Nice Story on Yahoo!’s APT in the NYT

Good story over the weekend in the New York Times about the newspapers success with APT from Yahoo!. I actually was walking right by Hilary and Lem coming from the cafeteria at Yahoo! when they were taking these photos.
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Yahoo! Starts Offering Rich Ads in Search

Cool announcement from my employer today, as they’ve announced the beta testing of “Rich Ads” in search results.
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Publisher Success Story: Plentyoffish at

The story of Markus Frind and the success of has been covered before and is pretty well known to those who follow the web publishing world closely. goes a bit deeper though than previous stories, so it’s interesting to learn a bit more about Frind and his background and the success has received.
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