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Mobile // Mobile Business
11:55 AM

Mobile Advertisers Gear Up For Apple Watch

Apple hasn't said it will allow ads on its smartwatch, but mobile marketers are already exploring how to serve ads on the wearable.

Wearables Carve New Path To Health In 2015
Wearables Carve New Path To Health In 2015
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Digital marketing companies are already exploring how to paste advertisements on wearables. They are targeting Apple's smartwatch first, but you can be sure ads pointed to Android Wear devices won't be far behind. Apparently no screen is too small when it comes to the opportunity to make a buck.

TapSense, a mobile ad company, announced a new product that will help advertisers stick ads within third-party apps on the Apple Watch, reported The Wall Street Journal. The service is still being tested, but TapSense is hard at work on ad formats that make sense for wearables based on location.

"We are working in beta with both app developers and brands," said TapSense CEO Ash Kumar to the WSJ. "Reception for this has been incredible and we can't wait to see how location-based services add value to consumers' in-app experiences."

[Will Apple Watch woo you? See Wearables In 2015: 4 Predictions.]

Another company, inMarket, is creating a similar platform based on beacon technology. Beacons, which are still being tested by retailers, send information to mobile devices in a highly localized space, such as specific stores. Apple uses iBeacons in its own stores, for example. InMarket has signed Marsh Supermarkets, which wants to push beacon support across all its retail locations.

Marsh's plan is fairly robust. It claims to have 2 million shoppers pass through the doors of its 81 stores in Indiana and Ohio each week. It wants to serve CRM-focused functionality to the Apple Watch. "The first integration is a shopping list -- you can do it hands free," inMarket CEO Todd Dipaola said to Mobile Commerce Daily. "Suppose a shopper is pushing a shopping cart, has a baby in one hand and is using the other hand to pull items off the shelf. It is hard to have a paper list in front or to hold a phone. This makes it easier."

It's still early days for wearables. Consumers have begun to pick up fitness bands in greater numbers, but long-term usage is anything but consistent. Depending on which report you believe, as many as half of fitness band owners stop wearing them within the first six months. There's no data yet about how long people are sticking with more robust wearables, such as smartwatches. With little insight into their usage it's questionable just how effective ads sent to smartwatches may be. Fitness bands can't be targeted for ads because most don't have screens. At best, they have LEDs for basic notifications. Smartwatches, on the other hand, offer full-color displays. There's no denying smartwatches offer the real estate for ads and other content.

TapSense and inMarket may be getting ahead of themselves. Apple hasn't said it will offer advertising to the Apple Watch. If it does, it may only do it under certain parameters or conditions. (Let's not forget that Apple has its own ad platform, called iAd.) At this point, Google's Android Wear constitutes the bulk of smartwatches being worn around the world. With a half-dozen models in the market, it has a clear early lead. TapSense and inMarket may do well to broaden their scope -- even if early predictions suggest the Apple Watch may be a smash hit with iPhone owners.

Beyond the question of "can" is the question of "should." Smartwatches are meant to make peoples' lives just a bit easier. At the moment, their forte is allowing smartphone owners to leave their devices in their pockets and interact with notifications on their wrists instead. Many users may balk at the idea of interacting with ads on their wrists. If smartwatches become nothing more than another -- and arguably more intimate -- ad platform, then consumers may stay away from them entirely. We're already assailed by ads everywhere we look. The last place I want to view an ad is on my person.

What do you think? Are ads on smartwatches inevitable? Are they the future? Is this where retail is headed?

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2015 | 9:36:38 AM
Re: Ads on wearables
Completely agree with you - if there is ads adding possibility, the device should be free. I don't want to be bothered by ads bombard in anyway.
User Rank: Ninja
1/14/2015 | 5:42:09 PM
Re: Data
The amount of real estate on wearable devices would create a level of complexity before ads are profitable on it. Nevertheless, this has always been the case. For instance, to move from billboards or television to PCs, ads need to be well defined in terms of target market, supply segment and budgeting, etc., the same limited real estate on mobile devices create an added layer of definitions, such that apps are mostly displaying ads for other apps.

Wearable devices can deliver ads and they will be many creative minds developing a platform for it, but these ads will have to take into account a greater number of variables.
User Rank: Strategist
1/14/2015 | 9:25:49 AM
Ads on wearables
I for one would not purchase a device as a wearable such as the Apple Watch that would be showing me advertisements. I do not want or need to be bombarded with annoying "in your face" (pun intended) advertising.

First off, if they are allowing advertising, then why would anyone pay for such a device? Apple would obviously be receiving moeny to post the ads. So count me out; even if they say they will not, I would not trust Apple to make that a blanket statement that is forever.
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 11:10:54 PM
Re: Data
@danielcawry: From a marketing standpoint, I understand why advertisers would want to do this. What I wonder is whether there will ever be a limit to the amount of advertising people are willing to let into their lives.

The idea of being served ads on my wrist just takes things too far for me, personally. I'll be sticking with my analog watch for now.

Do you expect that most consumers will willingly accept advertising on a smartwatch?
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2015 | 7:29:41 PM
Re: Data
I agree that ads on wearables are inevitable, but the big question is whether Apple will be as restrictive with ads on Apple Watch as they have been throughout the iOS ecocystem. It's all fine and good that iOS developers have made $25 billion to date (as of the latest numbers confirmed by Apple this week), but Android is a much more accommodating platform for creative and effective mobile ads. Google Play is just one of many Android app stores that consumers have access to. Android's  top ad networks, like Airpush, probably innovate more every day than Apple does in a year. Apple does NOT have a good reputation for being a brilliant mobile advertising player (iAd, for example, is a disaster). So what I'm waiting to see is if Apple truly makes Apple Watch a blank canvas for developers and advertisers, or will Apple once again make it tough for anyone to be creative, successful, and wealthy.
User Rank: Ninja
1/13/2015 | 12:41:00 PM
Advertisers are hungry for the data that will come with the emergence of wearables. There's no doubt in my mind they will figure out how to cram ads into these devices. A whole new class of information about people will result from these things, a sort of extension of IoT when you think about it. 
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