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iPhone 3.0 Mobile Ads SDK Debuts

Developers of iPhone ads are getting some new toys to play with just in time for the update of the iPhone operating system. Mobile ad network firm AdMob is introducing a new set of iPhone ad formats for social networking, search and rich media to coincide with the upcoming release of the iPhone 3.0operating system.

The newest version of AdMob's iPhone software development kit is coming out Friday, with the new ad units becoming available July 1.

As mobile advertising and social networking continue to gain traction in terms of market reach, it make sense that brand managers would want to increase the ways they can capitalize on the success of the iPhone platform.

As smartphones continue to post steady sales gains, the mobile advertising industry is seeing wider adoption by consumers. In the U.S., 38 percent of mobile phone owners recall seeing advertising on their cell phones in the first quarter of 2009, although for smartphones, 59 percent recalled seeing mobile advertising, according to the quarterly Brightkite-GfK Technology Mobile Advertising Report.

"For smartphone users, the number one format is mobile Web advertising, while for regular phone users, it is SMS. However, perhaps the most striking finding of this report is the increased breadth of mobile advertising formats that consumers are noticing. Twenty-three percent of smartphone users recall seeing SMS advertising, but 20 percent saw ads in mobile social networks and 15 percent saw ads in mobile TV/video. In just three months, the number of smartphone users seeing ads inside a location based network has almost tripled to 15 percent. At current growth rates, we can expect to see some of these formats surpass mobile Web and/or SMS in 2009," according to the report.

The fastest growing application for iPhone users is games, which experienced 21 percent growth quarter over quarter; 50 percent of iPhone owners are now playing games on their phone, the report says.

"Over the last few years, we’ve tracked the growth of mobile advertising, and this has been fueled by text messaging and mobile Internet formats. Now we are seeing consumers adopting a much broader set of mobile applications and services and this is exposing them to new ad formats," Jonathon Linner, Brightkite CEO, said in a statment. "It's fascinating to see that iPhone users are almost as likely to see ads in a mobile social network as they are in a text message. This was unthinkable 12 months ago.”

AdMob's mobile ad network is positioned well to leverage the iPhone audience, as it reached 13.4 million unique iPhone and iPod touch users worldwide in April, and more than 19 million worldwide from January to April, Jason Spero, vice president and general manager for North America, told InernetNews.com.

The new version of AdMob's iPhone SDK delivers a better experience for consumers through the ability to dynamically update a given advertisement's look and feel, which in turn helps developers better monetize their applications, Spero said.

On the social networking front, developers of mobile ads served on the AdMob network will now be able to link to brand pages on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"So a user sees an ad, they click on it, and go to the landing page specific for that advertiser, not the site's front page," Spero said.

Additionally, AdMob is "putting enterprise or portal search in front of users," Spero said, by offering a new ad format that allows marketers to put search boxes in banner ads so searches are conducted within the ad unit. These ads would allow people to search an advertiser's mobile site or database from within the display.

In terms of rich media, AdMob is rolling out multi-panel banner ads, providing the opportunity for marketers to include multiple calls to action within one ad unit, in what Spero said is similar to a branded landing page.

"We've heard from advertisers that don't have a destination, a landing page, but want to share and engage with consumers, so once a user clicks on the banner, within the context of where they are is a sort of micro site," he said.

Finally, also available July 1 will be a dynamic, scrolling canvas ad unit that's designed to provide access to more in-depth information without requiring users to click away from a site or application by expanding to a full mobile Web page when tapped.

The search and social ad units will be available for both the iPhone's Safari browser and within iPhone applications, while the rich media units will only be available in apps.

AdMob overall says it serves 6.2 billion mobile banner and text ads monthly across a wide variety of mobile sites, apps and devices that also include the BlackBerry, Google Android-powered phones and Symbian-based phones.

Right now these key players in the mobile space -- in addition to Palm with its webOS-based Pre -- are making upgrades to their respective operating systems and rolling out signature products in a battle to be the dominant platform in the lucrative smartphone market.