Apple Could Soon Start Running Search Ads Outside of the App Store

Updates to an API suggest expansion into apps like Maps and News

Apple's extended search ads business could include Safari. - Credit by Getty Images
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Apple recently updated its Search Ads Campaign Management API, suggesting it’s opening up ad inventory in other owned-and-operated search channels outside of the App Store.

Advertisers have solely relied on Apple’s Search Ads API to launch campaigns in the App Store. But now, Apple has added two new parameters to the API, likely meaning advertisers will have to specify the end location for their campaigns.

Before, an advertiser’s only option to run search ads was in the App Store; now it seems they’re are about to have more choices.

“The only assumption you can make is that Apple is going to allow ads in other search inventory,” said one source, who declined to be named citing contractual obligations.

Apple did not return a request for comment as of press time.

The two new parameters are supplySource and adChannelType. The additional channels seem to be placeholders for other yet-to-be-tapped search inventory Apple owns, such as Maps, News, Stocks or the Top Hit section in Safari.

This wouldn’t be the first time Apple has tried to create an ad platform. The company launched iAds in 2010 to run display ads across its mobile devices, but that shuttered in 2016 as Apple’s hyperfocus on user experience came at the expense of creativity and targeting, critics claimed.

Apple seems to be adding additional inventory sources to its Search Ads API a month after making updates to its developer guidelines that hinted at putting more muscle behind its SKAdNetwork.

It’s currently optional for developers to integrate SKAdNetwork into their apps. Opening up more inventory through the Search Ads API could be a step to drive further adoption.

“I think we’re marching toward a consolidated mechanism to buy inventory on Apple that will eventually lead into an integration with SKAdNetwork, and this is a way to litmus test that,” said another source close to Apple.

Apple is apparently eyeing an expanded advertising play after reporting record high revenues for its App Store search ad business in January’s earnings report.

Opening up more search inventory would allow Apple, which has taken a privacy-first approach to advertising, to further monetize its devices—and potentially stave off advertising giant Google.

Running ads in the Top Hit section of Safari, a pre-search feature that pops up when typing in the address bar, would potentially give Apple the opportunity to reach and convert users before they hit Enter and land on Google’s search results.

“If Apple can intercept the user before they hit go, then they can monetize it,” said the first source.


Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.