Apple Opens Up, Allowing Third-Party Ad Measurement Via NBCU Deal

Apple’s big iOS update last year created large amounts of new media inventory, which the company is monetizing through a big ad deal with NBCUniversal and direct relationships with publishers.

Now the mobile platform giant is opening the gates to outside measurement of its ad impressions, AdExchanger has learned.

Through its sales agreement with NBCUniversal, Apple News will not only support tags from rich media ad servers including Kargo and Celtra, but also third-party measurement services like comScore and Moat.

NBCU, which plans to make Apple News a big part of its upfront push, expects to add additional measurement providers and other third-party ad partners to that list.

Apple’s walled garden had been closed to third-party tags and measurement since it shuttered iAd in January 2016. But that philosophy is changing.

“Apple saw a lot of white space three and a half years ago for premium publishers to make money in a well-lit garden,” said James Kreckler, SVP of digital ad sales for NBCUniversal, who oversees the NBC-Apple News sales relationship. “And if you’re going to do that, you need to not grade your own homework. I think they’re evolving and listening to advertisers and the market.”

Allowing third-party measurement and ad serving is a major step for Apple, a move Kreckler says will help Apple News be more competitive against Facebook and Google. 

Both ad giants are under pressure to be more transparent, and are starting to work more closely with the Media Rating Council (MRC) and allow third-party viewability tracking.

“A lot of people are looking more closely at ensuring they have the right accreditation in place after [P&G CMO] Marc Pritchard’s speech at the IAB,” Kreckler said. “And I think if you have a great product that’s well-lit and not fraudulent, why wouldn’t you want that certification?”

Despite Apple’s acceptance of certain third-party measurement and ad partner pixels, don’t expect Apple to immediately turn on the programmatic pipes.

“I don’t see this as being connected to a DSP and I don’t think they’d want to connect into that because of the nature of their privacy policy,” Kreckler said.

In fact, advertising on Apple News is more about reach in a premium publisher environment. Apple News had about 70 million monthly users at last count.

“I think it’s much more of a branding vehicle than most ‘mobile opportunities’ in the market today,” Kreckler said.

He added: “The fantastic thing about Apple News is you have people coming in from three different places: through the app, through alerts or by swiping left on [the home screen].”

Advertisers can engage NBC’s sales team directly to buy Apple News inventory, which includes native placements in the Apple News home page and news feeds dedicated to certain subjects, like the NFL playoffs or March Madness. NBC can also backfill ads for other publishers with articles in Apple News.

NBCU’s cross-platform reach isn’t limited to the Apple News audience.

Consider NBCU’s E! red carpet coverage. By extending its live, on-air programming to partnerships and sponsorships on digital platforms like Apple News, NBC can add incremental reach because duplication is so low between the Apple News app user and its own app consumers.

Though largely a branding play, NBC and Apple let advertisers add creative overlays, segmentation and audience targeting. However, any first- or third-party data onboarding happens behind Apple’s firewall, so data can come in, but not out, of Apple’s environment.

Apple News also has video inventory, and Kreckler expects more to come.

“You’ll see more video pushed to the platform as we upload more of our brands, as well as other publishers,” Kreckler said. “It will be a big driver when you think about multimedia marketing programs we do in the upfront.”

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