Apple tees up bigger search ads push ahead of holidays

    • Apple notified developers about new search placements arriving on its app marketplace in time for the holidays, CNBC reported.
    • The iPhone maker’s ad sales operations revolve around the App Store, which to date has offered a slim amount of inventory. While details are unclear on the latest additions, the firm in July said it would expand ads to the App Store’s front page and in the form of sponsored placements under the recommendations banner on app product pages.
    • Apple has yet to make a major push into digital advertising, but that could change soon amid rumblings around hiring sprees and ambitions to build more robust ad-tech tools. Other ad network operators have promoted search features in preparation for the fourth quarter.

    Apple adding a few new units to its search ads lineup may seem like a small development, but it shows the company ramping up advertising ambitions at a transitional point for digital marketing — one where the iPhone maker has played a pivotal role in shaking up the business.

    The App Store currently only carries a few paid media placements in the main search tab and on search results pages. But the tech firm earlier this summer suggested it would integrate ads into the platform’s front page, called the Today tab, as well as to the “You Might Also Like” section of product pages that push recommendations to users. Apple will host a webinar for developers on Sept. 21 to further discuss the search ads changes, per CNBC.

    A more serious push into search arrives in time for the typically busy fourth quarter, where marketers are expected to focus more on performance marketing this year. Walmart — which is similarly eyeing digital media monetization as a bigger revenue driver — earlier this week said it would make an ad format that boosts products to the top of search results a self-service feature for the holidays.

    Search has remained a steady area of investment as other pockets of digital encounter headwinds from macroeconomic factors, including inflation, and shifting privacy mandates. Spending on search advertising in the U.S. is forecast by Insider Intelligence to hit $99 billion in 2022, a 28.6% increase.

    Apple’s growing bets on ads have been met with some scrutiny, as privacy changes enforced by the company have hamstrung rivals it could potentially compete with for brand dollars.

    Last year, Apple implemented an App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework that makes targeting and measuring mobile campaigns more difficult. ATT, which reached mass adoption in June 2021, has carried an acute impact tech giants that rely on mobile advertising like Meta Platforms and Snap Inc. Meta, which operates Facebook and Instagram, has said it could lose up to $10 billion in revenue due to headwinds stemming from ATT this year.

    A recent study by Appsumer, the performance insights arm of mobile ad-tech firm InMobi, indicates that ATT at the same time has benefitted Apple Search Ads (ASA). Adoption of ASA grew four percentage points among advertisers over the past year, while adoption of Meta’s services dropped three percentage points. Meanwhile, ASA’s share-of-wallet rose five percentage points to reach a 15% share of the market.


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