Apple Rolls Out Self-Serve Tool for iAds

Web Tool Could Mean More Ad Dollars Faster for App Developers

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Want to make an iAd without picking up the phone and calling Apple? Now, you can, at least in principle.

Apple has quietly released its first web development tool for its mobile ad unit called iAd Producer. While digital agency types are likely taking a sigh of relief now that they can develop mobile ads for iPhones--and soon for iPads--on their own without Apple's help, the move is likely also a ploy for Apple to pump ad money to app developers that are increasingly eyeing Google's Android platform.

Until now, Apple had developed iAds in house to make sure the new format got off the ground without hitches. That often meant delays because Apple would have to handle the ads in conjunction with agencies and brands. But now, letting agencies and developers build iAds themselves could mean faster development cycles, meaning more ads and dollars could follow onto the platform faster.

More ads could mean more money for developers that choose to continue to make apps for Apple devices. Keeping developers and their apps on Apple devices is key, especially because of Google's growing dominance in mobile. With more people turning to Android phones, developers could be persuaded to focus on building apps for Google's platform because of its larger audience. But not if Apple can keep developing for iPhone and iPad lucrative.

Google's mobile software Android is growing at break-neck speeds and there's early evidence that developers are flocking to the platform now that there's a solid user base. There are now 100,000 apps in the Android Market--that's three-times as many as this past spring. If Google's Android operating system continues growing at its current pace--it picked up more than 6 points in U.S. smart phone market share from July to October, according to ComScore--Android will soon beat Apple as the number-two platform stateside, after Blackberry's Research in Motion.

However, iAd Producer doesn't necessarily mean Apple will keep its hands off approving iAds. There's been no announcement about changes in the approval process--in the past, there have been complaints that Apple's involvement has slowed down get ads to market, but it's likely that process will evolve to make sure ads are technically sound, like how apps need to be approved before they end up in the App Store.

Google is so far trumping Apple on volume of ad inventory--research firm IDC projects iAd will close the year with more than 8% U.S. mobile ad market share, to Google's nearly 60%. (Google's percentage includes mobile search, while Apple does not run search ads, only display.) Also, Apple relinquished its non-Apple device inventory, which it acquired with Quattro Wireless early this year, in August to focus exclusively on iAd, a format only available on Apple devices. That was a sure sign that Apple is committing to subsidizing development on its devices alone.

However, the iAd network is growing, too, as it goes global and lands on new platforms like iPad. It's been U.S.-only since launch this summer, but has recently expanded to the U.K. and France this month and to Germany in January. The company claims more than half of Ad Age's top 25 U.S. advertiser by revenue have signed on for iAds since launch.

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