Apple's iAd Takes on Google With Targeted Mobile Advertising

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Bloomberg takes a look at Apple's new iAd platform and how the company is using its vast database of customer information to target advertising campaigns and get a leg up on Google in the mobile advertising space.

Relying on the music, videos and apps that customers are downloading from its iTunes, App Store and iBooks helps Apple sketch a behavioral profile that can be paired with appropriate promotional messages. On its website, Apple says its "standard targeting options" include demographics, application preferences, music passions, movie genre interests, television genre interests and location.

Google, which has made its search business in large part on its ability to deliver targeted ads, has similar capabilities to Apple, with its search results, email offerings, and Android platform serving as sources for customer information that it could use for targeting mobile ads. But what it doesn't have is access to Apple's ecosystem administered through the iTunes Store, a limitation that gives Apple a significant advantage on its own iOS platform that has reportedly surpassed 100 million devices sold.

Today's report points to Unilever's "Dove Men+Care" soap campaign, one of the launch iAd campaigns, as an example of Apple's iAd program in action.

Unilever, which began working with Apple in May on a campaign for its Dove Men+Care soap, is using iAd to zero in on married men who are in their late 30s and have children.

"Apple then overlays that with the iTunes information and targets quite well and quite surgically," said Rob Candelino, marketing director at Unilever, based in London and Rotterdam.

Apple doesn't share information on individuals, Candelino said. Instead, Unilever can choose to advertise in certain "buckets" of applications, such as those on news or entertainment, based on characteristics of its users.

Despite comments from Apple CEO Steve Jobs last month revealing that the company has already locked up $60 million in iAd commitments for the second half of this year, a number of questions remain about the program, ranging from privacy and antitrust concerns to worries about whether it can live up to the hype and deliver the kind of customer response advertisers are expecting and for which they are paying top dollar.

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