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Apple to offer automated iAds, catching up with rival mobile advertisers

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Apple's continuously evolving iAds network is expected to soon begin offering automated, "programmatic" advertising for the first time, offering a feature that has become popular on rival networks.

Automated advertising company Rubicon Project issued a press release this week revealing that it was partnering with Apple to bring the feature to iAds. Though the statement was quickly pulled from the Web, a cache of it was spotted by Business Insider.

In the press release, Rubicon Project said Apple has selected it for its adoption of automated advertising for iAd's 250,000-plus mobile developers. The company's direct order automation platform will form an open marketplace for the buying and selling of iAd inventory, making it easy for advertisers to buy audiences via Rubicon Project's global exchange.

"We're thrilled to have been chosen by Apple to help bring automation to iAd's direct order business and to provide access to premium mobile buyers from around the world," Greg Raifman, president of Rubicon Project, said in the now-unavailable press release. "We look forward to providing buyers with access to the unprecedented audience targeting capabilities iAd brings to automated advertising."

Until now, iAd buys have been done directly through Apple's sales team. But programmatic buying would enable advertisers to bid on placements through auctions, a process that has proven popular through other online advertising networks.

Apple has been gradually expanding its iAd service since it first launched in 2010, adding features, expanding availability, and lowering buy-in prices for advertisers. The company has been making efforts to tie it in to other services on the iPhone as well, such as allowing advertisers to include "Add to Passbook" buttons for coupons, and is said to be planning Apple Pay support.

In the four years since it was introduced by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, iAd has failed to live up to initial expectations. As a result, the company has gradually made changes to cater to advertisers in hopes of growing its network, though Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook recently referred to iAd as a "very small part" of his company's business.