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Back when Apple announced its iAds platform for creating and placing high-quality ads in iPhone apps, we wondered whether smaller ad networks might get crushed. But early signs suggest that Apple hasn’t mastered this ad thing yet, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.

The article quotes a number of advertisers and developers, some of them anonymously, who mostly say that working with Apple has been a much slower process than expected. This might seem to contradict a report in Business Insider last week, which said the iAds program is on its way to being a big hit.

The two stories agree on a basic point — that the ads look great, as seen in the Nissan Leaf ad in June. The problem, apparently, is that Apple hasn’t distributed any kind of developer kit to advertisers, and it wants to be closely involved in the creation of these initial ads. That dramatically slows the process down, with the ad creation process taking eight to 10 weeks.

“I think it’s the best-looking ad format and will perform long term, but the start has been disappointingly slow,” Loopt chief executive Sam Altman told the Journal.

Given Apple’s emphasis on ad quality, it’s not surprising that the company would want to make sure the early ads live up to the hype. There’s a lot of interest on the developer side, with a reported 10,000 signing up for the program.

With Apple acting as a bottleneck for brand advertisers, it appears that most of the current iAd advertising is for iPhone applications, as noted by mobile developer Hung Truong. Those ads probably won’t bring in the revenue that Apple and its developers are looking for. Truong compares the situation to a description of Yahoo in the 1990s: Yahoo then and Apple now are trying to be media companies, even though their strengths are in technology.

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