Few, if any, new technologies have experienced the surge in consumer adoption that the iPad has -- selling 3 million units in its first 80 days and tracking to surpass the cell phone to become the fourth-biggest consumer electronics category, according to Bernstein Research. But the runaway success of the iPad and other tablet devices has left many marketers scrambling to find some way to fit their brand experience into a 9.7-inch screen.
If nothing else, the versatile, touchable, tote-able tablet is an unprecedented opportunity for brands to think big (bigger than the smartphone, at least) and think outside the box-y desktop computer in terms of engagement and interaction. And while there may not yet be set limits for advertising, there are certainly some early examples of how to best leverage the platform's unique attributes and contribute to its growth as an advertising channel. In advance of his presentation on tablets at ad:tech San Francisco, Organic Inc.'s Dan Neumann spoke to iMedia to share some of his insight for doing just that.
iMedia Connection: Let's talk about the benefits that tablets offer for marketers. What ad formats have been successful on tablets so far, and what can marketers do in this space that they can't on other devices? What formats should be available that don't exist yet?
Dan Neumann: Advertisers are holding metrics close to their chests right now, so it's difficult to know exactly how effective the most popular tablet-specific ad formats are. That said, I think that the more interesting tablet plays for advertisers have come in the form of partnerships, as opposed to display ads.
Cadillac did an interesting partnership with Cool Hunting, where they curated a section of the app for the launch of the Cadillac CTS.
The emerging behavioral conventions associated with tablets in concert with their unique capabilities make iOS and Android devices ripe for innovative ad formats. I liked what Medialets did for "True Blood."
iMedia Connection: Despite the recent mobile mania, marketing on tablets is still in the early adopter phase. What do you think will need to happen before it can reach a tipping point? What might stand in the way of its growth?
Neumann: Before it can happen for tablets, the market needs to mature. The most current projections peg the number of U.S. tablet users at 26 million by EOY 2011, and that includes the Kindle which, for most brands, isn't yet a viable platform for marketing. Fragmentation could be an issue for advertisers as Android, WebOS and, potentially, Windows Phone 7 compete with Apple for users.
iMedia Connection: So far, most advertising on tablets has been somewhat generic and uniform -- almost like print ads with motion or video. What can a brand do to distinguish itself and get an early lead on the competition in this platform?
Neumann: Developing a branded application could be a good way to get noticed. Partnering with an established app developer is also a good strategy if you don't see a good way of translating your brand to the platform. Smule did this with Fox for "Glee" with a good amount of success.
iMedia Connection: Who's using the unique features of table devices to their best advantage? And in contrast, what initial iPad/tablet experiments do you think have failed for marketers?
Neumann: Cadillac and its Cool Hunting application, National Public Radio, and Pandora are leveraging the iPad's unique features to their best advantage. In addition, I think these brands are also created experiences that take full advantage of the platform:
- Brands creating content
Tabio. A beautifully shot and planned film created to highlight the Tabio product in motion (literally), with the ability to buy right from the film.
- Content to purchase
Net-A-Porter.This showcases the ability to present two dimensions of content using an accelerometer. One orientation gives you a beautiful magazine-like browsing experience, and the other gives you the ability to shop the advertising.
- Content with utility
Kraft -- Big Fork, Little Fork.
This is a resource for parents to teach their kids about smarter eating habits and have fun while doing it -- a perfect way to position Kraft at the heart of the kitchen and the family.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have brands that are generating ads on the iPad that are not capitalizing on the dynamic features and the multi-touch capabilities within the medium. Tissot, the Swiss watch maker, Heineken, and Infiniti could have explored more of those features. Volkswagen could have used the built-in accelerometer to turn around the cars in its iPad ad and [let users] explore the [car's] roomy interior.
iMedia Connection: Any new tablets or similar devices on the horizon that might displace the iPad? Or are there other frontiers that marketers should be paying greater attention to?
Neumann: Android tablets are definitely on the horizon, and if smartphone adoption is any indication of consumer's interest, they could fast become a viable marketing platform. Hewlett-Packard, by way of WebOS, is also poised to field a competitive tablet platform. I think that televisions will become extensions of these platforms, and that's really exciting. People still spend a ton of time watching TV, so there's tremendous potential for marketers as living room TV experience shifts from passive to interactive.
iMedia Connection: What are the debates/arguments you encounter about the future tablet market? What do you tell clients about marketing on that platform? Are there certain criteria you use to determine whether a client is ready to jump in the waters of a new technology or ad platform?
Neumann: Most clients ought to have a tablet strategy. For most, ensuring that core content is accessible and that their web experience translates to the tablet's user experience (UX) conventions is enough. For others, native applications and in-app ads can be a good way to reach a specific audience. For a native app, the first thing a brand needs is an idea -- a good one. It's tough to get noticed, and even tougher to build an app that stays relevant.
iMedia Connection: Since you mentioned apps, the branded app is emerging as another major player in mobile marketing. But developing an app is expensive, and might not provide much value for certain types of businesses. Can you recommend some lower-cost options for smaller businesses/brands that still want to take advantage of the mobile platform?
Neumann: Sure, a web app optimized for tablet UX conventions.
iMedia Connection: You will be presenting on the role of advertising on tablet devices at ad:tech San Francisco. What can attendees expect to learn from your session?
Neumann: Attendees can expect to learn when to simply optimize current content versus when to build an optimized web-app versus when to build a native app. And I'll talk a bit about how Organic is approaching these platforms from a digital agency perspective.
Jodi Harris is senior editor at iMedia Connection.