Apple to Launch New Mobile Advertising Platform?

Will “iAd” be the end of print, or the beginning of the end for mobile advertising?

We're only days away from the launch of the iPad, an event that some say will determine the future of the magazine and newspaper publishing industries. But wait, there's more. Only days after the iPad's release, rumor has it that Apple will be unveiling what the speculative geek circuit is calling the “iAd.” And you thought they were gonna let us poor ol' printers down easy!

At this point, no one is exactly sure what iAd is going to be. There's been little indication as to which platforms the new technology will apply to, although the most recent buzz is that the mobile ad world's “next big thing” will impact every facet of Apple technology, from the iPad to iTunes.

It might be all about delivering location and interest-specific ads to i-users. A device would know where you are, and by the same token, what you're doing, and would deliver extremely targeted advertising based on this data. This line of speculation is fueled by Apple's recent purchase of mobile ad developer, Quattro.

Alternatively, “iAd” could wind up being all about some scary-looking patents Apple filed last year, for technology that forces viewers to watch ads in order to access content. Apparently, the technology can tell if a user is paying attention to an ad, and will freeze if you put down your device, and will only resume once you're engaging again.

The consumer-friendly side of the rumors is that this type of advertising could serve to subsidize both content and technology. In other words, if you're willing to use a device that forces you to watch ads, you can have it for cheap, or even free.

The other side of the coin, of course, is geared at appealing to advertisers. Not only will ads be highly targeted, personalized, localized, and even, maybe, impossible to look away from, they'll be constantly feeding data on the metrics of viewers and the success of ads back to advertisers.

At this point, speculation on iAd is so wild and imaginative that the April 7th launch will likely prove anti-climatic. The face of advertising could change forever, or Apple might just prove that when it comes to what the market will support, there is such thing as going too far.

Will consumers really embrace such an invasive form of advertising? Will the metrics-to-end-all-metrics promised to advertisers really be all that they're hyped to be?

The print industry awaits answers to these questions with bated breath…or something. All this scrambling around to control people's minds with hardcore ad techniques reminds me of the simple beauty of print advertising. Not only is it a visually stunning medium – something digital is still hard-pressed to reproduce – it also has a permanence, a solidity in the world which digital can't match. A print ad in a magazine, on a wall, or on a billboard, is there, undeniably there for the course of a campaign. It can't be clicked away from or banished to the background, and it makes an impression on our consciousness even when we're not being forced to look at it.

It seems like powerhouse digital advertisers a la Apple and Google are trying to reproduce the permanence and presence of print in a digital medium. Fortunately for us printers, if the way they do it is through tactics which can only be described as vaguely Orwellian, then I don't think we'll be closing up shop in deference to out digital overlords just yet.

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