If there’s any doubt about the long reach of Apple’s power in the media world, the brouhaha over a tiny Toyota ad campaign should put it to rest.
Toyota’s Scion brand’s agencies placed an ad campaign on ModMyi, a mobile site repository that’s part of jailbroken iPhone app store Cydia. The brand ran a banner ad in the jailbroken app store, located on pages hosted by ModMyI, along with a sponsored theme to skin iPhones. The ad raised eyebrows because it gave mainstream commercial blessing to a corner of the mobile world that’s considered slightly outlaw. Everyone seemed pleased.
ModMyI, the publisher hosting the ads, crowed about it. Scion’s agencies, mobile shop Velti and media agency OptiMedia, pointed to it as a forward-thinking move. After all, nearly a quarter of iPhones are jailbroken.
Apparently nobody touched base with Apple to see how it felt. After running smoothly for a week, the ad was pulled Monday shortly after blog networks began writing about, by all indications under pressure from Apple. Sources close to the buy confirm that a decision was made by the client to scrap the program after Apple expressed its displeasure. Toyota runs campaigns with Apple’s iAds program and, like nearly all brands, has apps of its own running on Apple’s operating system.
To hear ModMyI publisher Kyle Matthews tell it, this is a tale of corporate muscle. He published a message board post crowing about the ad after it ran for a week. Jay Freeman, founder of Cydia, saw the positive in this as well. “You think of Apple being against [jailbreaking], Sony suing people over it, and people angry at pirates and instability. Now a noticeable company has done something positive in the jailbroken community.” Freeman said. Perhaps in a harbinger of bad things to come, Freeman made a curious distinction. “But it’s Velti, not Toyota. The fact that Toyota has not fired Velti says a lot.”
That’s where he’s wrong. It’s Toyota’s ad, not Velti’s; it’s Toyota’s money, not Velti’s. Toyota is a company with many interests. One of them is clearly not angering the powers in Cupertino. What Apple said to Toyota isn’t clear. The company, Velti and Optimedia won’t comment. Sources close to the buy explained that Apple asked Scion to remove the ad and theme immediately. The implicit threat: continuing to run the ads through ModMyi and Cydia would be detrimental to future partnerships with both Scion and Toyota.
To be sure, ModMyI and Cydia aren’t illegal. This past year, it was ruled that jailbreaking your device was not illegal, but it will void your warranty. Sources at Velti explained that with Scion positioning themselves on the “bleeding edge of cool” it was only natural to go over to the jailbreak demographic which pushes the same customization mindset that Scion is trying to bring to cars.
Matthews removed the ads immediately and the theme late Monday night and followed up with a blog post. He concluded his post with an understated coda to the saga: “It’s interesting Apple maintains such a heavy stance against a niche who obviously loves their hardware so much.”