Among all the other wiz-bang stuff unveiled at the #AppleEvent yesterday was the addition of Ad Blocking to the next rev of iOS and Safari. All the pundits are clamoring it will change the face marketing for the better, reduce clutter, and force advertisers to be more relevant and produce better content. These things are mostly true.

The pundits are saying it is a real game changer.

And it is.

A game changer for Apple. And I predict it will change things in a big way for Google, too.

I believe strongly that Apple has planted the first flag in a land grab for mobile ad revenue. And this flag is planted firmly in the thing we hold in our hand every day.

Think about the mobile advertising ecosystem. I am generalizing here, but the ad itself sits in or near content, delivered through a publisher, inside a browser (or app), that runs on top of an operating system, that works on hardware. I am cutting out the carrier – but those are essentially the pieces.

So, Here’s Apple… and they say, “we’re going to enable ad blocking.” They are not doing it because they are good citizens of Earth, hoping to free content from the shackles & chains of advertising clutter. They are doing it because they SEE THE REVENUE POTENTIAL. The ecosystem, is really a hierarchy. Check out the little pyramid below.

Ad Hierarchy

Ads need content. Content needs a Publisher. Publishers need a browser or app. Browsers and apps need an operating system. Operating systems need hardware. And well… hmmmm…. Apple owns the bottom three rungs outright (for people who have an iPhone). They own the foundational stuff – Hardware – OS – Browser. But they do not own a ton of real estate in the publisher space, nor do they function as a content producer.

So Apple says, “heck… why not just block the ads using our browser and operating system. That way, we can look like the good guys. But really, [insert evil laugh and rubbing palms together] our plan is to shake up the advertising / publisher / agency world so we can charge publishers and advertisers to guarantee ad delivery. And we can do that because we own the hardware, operating system, and browser. We will lay down new rules and provide a conduit for advertisers. It will be a safer, better world of advertising because we control it. And we will only charge a small… nominal fee.”

Sounds a little Orwellian to me.

See what I did there?

Now, none of this has been announced. Far from it. Apple won’t admit it. And maybe I am being paranoid. But why would we think Apple is including ad blocking in its next release? I believe they are doing it to carve out a new revenue stream. It’s brilliant, really. I think it will take 12-18 months to unfold and it will be played like a naturally occurring evolution in the ad industry. But Apple will come out with a multi-billion-dollar stream of ad money that wasn’t’ there before. Time to buy some Apple stock, maybe!?!

Google hasn’t responded in kind, but they can make roughly the same play. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will follow their unofficial motto of “don’t be evil.” I dunno. I think they are more likely to follow their official motto of “don’t be evil unless it’s a new multi-billion-dollar revenue stream.”

In the end, I think consumers will get better ads. But behind the scenes – advertisers, publishers, and agencies will be paying a toll to Apple and potentially Google.

It will be interesting to see where it goes.

David H
David H
Vice President of Engagement

David helps clients envision how the web can improve their business and then devises a plan to achieve that vision.

It all started at First Consulting Group, where David led numerous complex projects, ranging from large-scale network upgrades to first-generation web sites for NYU. Since then he has amassed over a dozen years experience in strategic planning, web development, online marketing, web 2.0 consulting, digital PR, mobile marketing and a bunch of other stuff most people don’t understand - engineering web successes for numerous clients.

Before joining Smith Brothers, David spent seven years at Ripple Effects Interactive managing the company’s largest and most complex accounts, ultimately becoming the EVP of Strategy and Marketing. He also oversaw both the user experience and online marketing departments. He maintains a depth of knowledge with regard to usability heuristics and industry best practices across the interactive spectrum (quite a mouthful, huh?).

Throughout his career, David has worked with major brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Coke, National City Bank, GlaxoSmithKline, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University and the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

He holds a BA in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters in the same ultra-techie sounding major from Ohio University.