At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, mobile-marketing firm TapSense plans to release an Apple Watch ad-buying service. The service will provide a first glimpse of how businesses can serve up ads on the watch, even though the gadget will not be available until later this year.
At issue: the same qualities that render the watch exciting to Madison Avenue, such as the ability to detect customers approaching a store and to zap an ad directly to their wrists, also risk alienating those customers.
Apple declined to comment on the use of its watch by advertisers, and will not attend CES officially. But many companies that make devices and services based around Apple products will be there, including several that are working with WatchKit, a software-development tool Apple released in November that allows developers to build watch-tailored applications.
Using that tool, developers are devising Apple Watch ad formats including interactive wallpapers on the watch dial with brand logos and personalized clock faces, said TapSense's chief executive Ash Kumar. His product helps developers insert ads, bought and sold instantaneously, in those apps.
The watch's main screen allows the display of several tiny icons, including for email, weather, time, and potentially a few favorite service and retail apps.
Businesses could use those apps to notify customers of special deals, but only within already-opened apps, Kumar said. Otherwise, the vendor risks annoying consumers by introducing an ad that is out of sync with whatever they are doing.
If a consumer is using a transit app on the watch to monitor delays, for example, an advertiser could insert a marketing offer that would light up on the watch face for a ride-sharing service or a deal at a coffee shop nearby, Kumar said.