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So, here it is. Launch day for the iAd mobile ad platform from Apple. It’s going to be a big deal…just not today.

Some of the initial advertisers will not have campaigns ready for several months, according toAdAge. So this won’t be anything like the launch of a new iPhone model. It’s a first step. But with $60 million of inventory sold, iAd generates plenty of heat.

Here’s what a couple of experienced mobile advertising people told me they expect from the new ad network:



  • “iAd pushes mobile advertising into a new realm. For the first time, for good reason or not, advertisers are excited about being associated with mobile…and actually putting budget behind those efforts to prove it,” says Ben Gaddis, director of mobile and emerging media for T3.



  • “iAd is a closed ecosystem, thus limiting distribution,” says Amielle Lake, CEO of Tagga Media.



This mix of enthusiasm and criticism reflects the views of many in the mobile ad world. Some welcome the addition of a powerful new player, while others bristle at the fact that it is control-freak Apple in charge.

New Biz for Apple

Mobile advertising is a new business for Apple. Even though the company benefits from the capable people it acquired in the Quattro Wireless deal, Apple itself treads new ground as the seller of advertising inventory. It will take some time for Apple to sort things out.

Assuming the first wave of advertisers get enough of the ROI they’re looking for and they come back for more, then this will turn out to be a big win for Apple, and its ad clients. But hurdles could impede the road ahead – especially an apparent probe by theFTC.

Assuming that probe doesn’t derail things, I expect the rest of this year to be full of buzz and hype around iAd. But we won’t know all that much until the end of the year – once enough advertisers have completed campaigns and crunched the data.

The real impact comes in 2011. That’s when budgets bust open and iAd takes flight. But this won’t be a slam-dunk. Alternative mobile ad networks already offer the type of “rich-media” creative elements Apple has touted, and there will be plenty of competition for ad dollars. Nonetheless, Apple’s involvement will lift mobile advertising to a new level.

For now, Apple rides a high horse, with hardware, software and now advertising. There is no magic here. It out-innovates nearly all of its competitors, and it knows marketing. As Jobs has said, the real test is if customers like what the company produces. They do at this moment, and the companyreceives a wide pass to get things right, even in spite of its flaws. The same will happen in mobile advertising…as long as both consumers and advertisers remain delighted – and regulators don’t interfere too much.

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