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.
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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.
Smartwatch spam box?
But moderation is key. Push notifications and banner ads on smartphones can be turn-offs. Some marketers advise avoiding showing ads to users who typically click out of them or delivering the same ad too many times to any one user.
"If it feels like your smartwatch is turning into a spam box, you will take it off," said Padden Guy Murphy, who heads business development and public policy at car-sharing service Getaround.
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The startup is exploring using Apple Watch's location-based features to target new customers. Apple has not added global positioning on the Apple Watch, but apps can track location as the device is tethered to a smartphone.