One of Apple’s fastest growing revenue streams? Advertising.

Launched in 2016, Apple’s ad business is an under-the-radar gold mine.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple dropped some of the most memorable ads of all time, including:

  • “1984” which ran during the 1984 Super Bowl and staged a direct assault on IBM
  • The “Get a Mac” campaign starring Justin Long, which took aim at PCs

Now, the most successful hardware company of all time is cashing in on its own advertising business, per the Financial Times.

Search Ads is a secret juggernaut

Apple launched Search Ads in 2016 to give developers an easy way to get their app in front of new users. The business gained steam early, with analysts estimating the business unit did $500m in revenue in 2018.

However, a recent update in iOS 14.5 that opted users out of ad tracking by default pushed the business to the next level:

  • Apple’s ads are now responsible for 58% of all iPhone app downloads, up from 17% a year ago
  • Analysts project Apple will make $5B off ads this year and $20B per year by 2024

Before the iOS update, data on ad performance was available in real time and down to the individual user. Now, data is delayed up to 72 hours and only available in aggregate — a huge blow to Facebook, Google, Snap, and TikTok.

But it’s not hurting everyone

The lack of transparency on Apple’s devices has pushed marketers to spend more on Android, pushing the ratio of spending from 50-50 to 70% Android, 30% Apple.

Apple is also facing criticism for giving itself a free pass when it’s unclear if the company is in compliance with its own privacy rules.

Regardless, with its growing focus on services and massive investments in Apple TV+, this could be just the beginning for Apple’s ad empire.

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