Here Come the IAd Lookalikes: Medialets Offers Tools for Agencies

Razorfish, AKQA and Ogilvy Among Early Partners to Get Guidance in Mobile Advertising

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NEW YORK ( -- Apple's been quiet since it reinvented mobile ads with its iAd format this summer. Meanwhile, its competitors are scheming to ride that wave and make iAd lookalikes without Apple's steep price tag.

A new tool from iAd competitor Medialets is putting mobile rich-media creation back in the hands of agencies. Which means some of the same agencies that littered the internet with pop-up ads and giant banners will be trying their hand at rich-media ads on smartphones.

A screenshot of a Medialets rich-media ad for 'True Blood.'
A screenshot of a Medialets rich-media ad for 'True Blood.'
The certification program, dubbed Medialets Create, will provide early agency partners such as Razorfish, AKQA and Ogilvy with training and tools to produce mobile ads that take advantage of the big screens and processing power of today's generation of smartphones.

"Apple has been great for the advertising industry as a whole in making people aware of what the real opportunities are [in mobile]," said Eric Litman, chairman-CEO of Medialets. "Now for the market to scale, the people who are in the business of advertising need the tools to do it themselves."

While Apple's iAd has undoubtedly brought much needed attention to mobile advertising and proved that the medium can be premium with $1 million-plus asking prices, the ad unit has garnered some criticism from agencies for slow production times and approval hurdles.

That puts Medialet's self-service aspirations for mobile rich media in stark contrast with iAd. Apple has handled production for those big-budget mobile ad units. That's meant two dozen iAd brand campaigns since July, according to Apple. Developers can also build iAds to promote their apps through a program called iAd for Developers, but agencies and marketers still do not have a development kit to build those ads themselves.

Eric Litman
Eric Litman
Apple is widely expected to release its own development kit for iAds for agencies.

Regardless, initial reactions to iAd have run the gamut -- some marketers, such as Unilever and Nissan, are coming back for more campaigns after their initial efforts. On the other hand, one agency person going between his client and Apple for a first-round iAd characterized the approval process as grueling: "I had two clients: [a marketer] and Steve Jobs," he said. Fashion marketer Chanel reportedly canceled plans for iAd and turned to Medialets instead.

Another iAd advertiser, Liberty Mutual, acknowledges that the creative process took considerable time. But the amount of time or being first to market weren't really important for Paul Alexander, senior VP-communications for the insurance company. "Certainly we would have liked to move faster, but I'm glad we took our time," he said. Liberty Mutual signed on for a nearly $1 million iAd program in the spring, and the ad launched in late October. "With taking our time, we got a better product."

Agency control over creative is what's especially attractive about Medialets' program, said early partner Nicole Amodeo, VP-media innovation and strategy for mobile agency the Hyperfactory. "What's important is to take Medialets Create and have complete control over what is being developed from a design and build standpoint," she said, adding that she's never worked on an iAd. "That sort of thing is great for Apple to control what's being built, but agencies also do amazing work and have amazing designers and creative people."

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