Irony at Apple in Viral Ad Patent

iad-producer-iconIn April, we told you about Facebook’s patent application to create a new kind of ad exchange for digital content. This month, FB and Apple both announced partnerships to host news media content that has traditionally run on publisher channels.

Now, it’s been announced that “Apple has been granted a patent for a new viral advertising management system that can track ads or media content as it is shared via different methods, such as email, texts and social networks like Facebook and Twitter,” writes Jim Edwards in Business Insider.

Edwards stresses that this doesn’t necessarily meant that Apple is poised to launch a viral ad product, or get seriously into tracking users social consumption. But the writing is on the wall.

Edwards notes that Apple is launching its ad blocker in iOS9, and is also offering programmatic ad buying through iAd, both of which should entice more publishers to use their hosted content partnerships.

Theoretically, the new viral ad management system “could be used in iAd. The system proposes to gather data about people who share ads or content with their friends from Apple devices,” he says.

To be sure, Apple (and any other tech company worth their salt) files lots of patent applications, a fact that Edwards duly notes. Still, we agree with him that it seems highly ironic that the company has created this tracking system after CEO Tim Cook blasted Facebook and Google for the same type of thing.

“Some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetise it. We think that’s wrong,” Edwards quotes Cook as telling a recent audience.

Maybe they just wanted to beat the other guys to the punch and shelve the technology on our behalf? Yeah, we don’t really think so either. From here this all looks a bit like the Wild West of digital content, and it’s hard to tell who’s wearing what color hat. Either way, it’s fascinating to see it all play out.