Most mobile advertising really sucks." Steve Jobs said this at his presentation of Apple's new ad format, the iAd, last year. The remark got a big laugh of recognition from the audience. Then again, even the weakest attempts at humour from the revered Apple boss get people rolling in the aisles.
To save us all from the scourge of modern mobile advertising, Jobs wants to change the quality of mobile ads, "to deliver interaction, but also to deliver emotion". Cue the iAd.
The ads, which are built into the iPhone or iPad's operating system, can include audio, video and maps, and enable the user to download apps or order products from inside the ads.
Aside from being presented as a richer experience for the user, the iAd allows the consumer to leave the ad and go back into their app in one touch, something other mobile advertising doesn't allow for Apple says.
The format is presented as a new opportunity for advertisers and agencies alike and Apple has attracted high-profile companies including AB InBev, Absolute Radio, Perrier and Renault.
But it comes at a steep price. Though Apple has reportedly slashed the price threshold to run UK campaigns via iAd by nearly 50 per cent from £615,000 at launch to £325,000, rates for pan-European advertising deals will be held at $1 million (£615,000) to deal with different markets and languages.
As with all things Apple, there is a sense of exclusivity surrounding the iAd format. But is the fuss merited? Keir Mather, the team director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty who oversaw the creation of the Lynx Excite iAd, says it's a "good creative opportunity".
"When Apple presented the format to us, it said that it wanted to get people to love advertising again and it appears to want to get in with creative agencies," he adds.
But Mather warns the format still has some way to go. The iAd does not yet have the functionality of an app. Users can't access their contacts, photos or social networks such as Facebook from an iAd and are not able to share an iAd with friends or contacts, although there are plans to get the functionality to the same level.
Fred Levron, the head of digital and branded content at Ogilvy & Mather, hails the iAd as the only advertising format that allows for "really engaging storytelling". He says: "There is no comparison between what you can do within an iAd and what you can do on any other mobile format."
Levron, who helped develop a pan-European iAd campaign for Perrier starring Dita Von Teese, says that one of the reasons Perrier forked out EUR1 million for the privilege was that it helped the brand to be perceived as a pioneer. Perrier aims to target trend-setters and the iPhone is generally regarded as their device of choice.
Because the iAd is based on the App Store, it also allows brands access to data on the user, such as age, where he or she is from and the amount of time spent with the iAd. However, some information is still lacking. "We don't know if the targeted person is a premium user or not," Levron says.
The costs for advertisers are expected to drop further as production houses become more accustomed to using the technology. And, though some have yet to be convinced on the iAd's return on investment, the format has plenty of converts. Clive Dickens, the Absolute Radio chief operating officer, trumpeted the tap-through rate for the station's iAds at around 80 per cent higher than other digital ad platforms. Louis Vuitton is among brands lining up for a European iAd launch. Apple is also increasing its promotion of the iAd in the US, unveiling a free new app earlier this month aimed at brand professionals and users, that showcases iAds.
The mobile advertising world may not be revolutionised just yet, but, as Mather puts it: "It's an exciting start."
ABSOLUTE RADIO - ALBION
Glyn Britton, strategic director, Albion: Our client Absolute Radio signed up as a European launch partner for Apple's iAd format because it is building its brand and business through digital innovation, because it knew its audience is tech-savvy smartphone users (57 per cent of London listeners own a smartphone, according to EMR research), and because the platform offers unprecedented opportunity for targeting and engagement. With three top-five mobile apps of its own, Absolute is in a unique position as both a publisher and advertiser on the iAd network.
Albion has worked with Absolute since May 2008, when we helped it develop the rebrand from Virgin Radio. It asked us to create an iAd to promote its football offer - especially leveraging its Barclays Premier League commentary rights and signing of Ian Wright as a presenter - and to drive downloads of its Live Scores iPhone app.
We worked hard to understand its "reluctant adults" target audience, and think about what would engage them. We also worked on the tone of the ad; we really wanted to demonstrate the spirit of Absolute Radio.
Absolute Radio calls its football offer "rock 'n' roll football", and we seized on that. We created an interactive experience to show what happens "when music and football collide".
The main menu is set on a football pitch, but a slider allows the user to transform it into a festival stage, or somewhere in between. The "hotel shootout" game allows the player to trash a luxury hotel room, rock star-style, but by kicking a football around. We shot a film showing the band Skunk Anansie trying to score penalties while still playing their instruments.
The campaign has reached millions of iPhone and iPod Touch audiences, and we've beaten all Apple's benchmarks. Time spent in the iAd was on average 88 seconds vs the iAd benchmark of 60 seconds. The tap-through rate peaked at 1.3 per cent with the average being 1.19 per cent. Harris research shows that Absolute Radio's unprompted awareness is up 10 per cent since the campaign launched in December.
PERRIER - OGILVY & MATHER PARIS
Fred Levron, head of digital branded content, Ogilvy & Mather Paris: We built a dedicated experience on Apple's iAd through iPhone devices - a digital interactive four-minute video experience that transforms your iPhone into The Perrier Mansion. An intimate show in which you are in complete control, or at least will try to be ... Dita takes you to every corner of the mansion and initiates you to new pleasures in each of its rooms.
In the "Dark Room", you'll have to be accurate enough when tapping on your iPhone screen to capture the most lascivious poses of a show performed in the dark. In "Roll the Dice", shake your iPhone to roll the dice and Dita will do only what chance decides. Those lucky enough to get the "double Perrier" still remember what they saw. In the third room of the mansion, Dita is performing one of her sexiest shows while every five seconds, a curtain is falling down - to keep the curtain from falling, frenetically type on your iPhone screen.
The Perrier Mansion's iAd has been 40 times more efficient than any other digital ad format when you compare click rate. According to the Mediaminds 2010 Study, the average click-through rate for digital ads is nine seconds. We're seeing that people spend an average of two minutes playing with the interactive Perrier Dita video brand experience. That's seven times more time spent than on brand websites or watching videos on YouTube. (The average time spent watching a video on YouTube is 30 seconds.) The Perrier Mansion's iAd's click-through rate and time spent is two times better than any other iAd ever made in the US or Europe.
LYNX EXCITE - BARTLE BOGLE HEGARTY
Keir Mather, team director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty: To launch Bartle Bogle Hegarty London's integrated Lynx Excite campaign, we created an iAd for Apple's mobile advertising network, harnessing the seductive powers of fallen angels. Introduced in the UK in December 2010, and predating the first play of the TV commercial by two months, we felt that the iAd platform was perfectly placed to match the Unilever brand's overarching strategy to find innovative ways to engage with its core audience.
Our vision of the Lynx iAd was that it should be a truly immersive experience: users interacting with it were invited to watch the upcoming TV ad (significantly before it aired in the UK), download wallpapers of the Lynx Angels and purchase the Sexy Boy soundtrack from iTunes, all within the app.
A phase two refresh of the ad in early 2011 incorporated a feature to 'play with your Angel', giving users the opportunity to interact with an Angel by tapping the screen to break her halo, swiping to spin her 360 degrees and shaking to ruffle her feathers.
Results of the campaign have been impressive. Reach was calculated at 4.9 million impressions with more than 66,000 users interacting with the ad (1.35 per cent tapping through). Dwell time one month post-launch was an average of 1.40 seconds. Average page views per visit was 5.26.
French and German versions of the iAd were also created.
In France, 1.3 million impressions were served with more than 12,000 users interacting with the ad (0.95 per cent tapping through), and in Germany more than 362,000 impressions were served with more than 2,800 users interacting with the ad (0.78 per cent tapping through).
The iAd forms part of an £8m media spend for Lynx Excite, which also includes TV, print, digital, gaming, out-of-home and PR.
KNORR - DLKW LOWE
Ash Amrite, director of digital development, DLKW Lowe: We launched Knorr's first iAd in the UK at the beginning of the year to promote its Rich Beef Stock Pot. The ad features an immersive, interactive experience to communicate the product's 'darker, richer and beefier' attributes. The iAd targeted affluent, working women who want to cook healthy and interesting meals, but who are looking for shortcuts that don't compromise on quality. The Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot iAd gave users the opportunity to browse recipes provided by Marco Pierre White, enter competitions to win recipe books, download an app and images to their device, find out more about the product and view the latest TV ad.
Steve Boswell, the executive creative director of DLKW Lowe who devised the iAd, said: "Meeting the creative challenge was especially exciting for us on this project. Working collaboratively with Apple to understand the platform really stretched us to think beyond the predictable and craft an experience which invites consumers to interact and engage at every stage in the journey."
Darren Roberts, the director of digital operations at DLKW Lowe, added: "iAd proves users will interact longer with app-targeted advertising if the experience is engaging and incentivised. We have seen upwards of 2.2 per cent click-through, a significant difference when compared to the much lower conversion rates on web banners."
The campaign ran for a period of three months and received 8.8 million impressions, with 160,000 visits. The most popular content being the free app and the Marco cookbook competition.