How the iPad could revolutionize the marketing mix
From the minute Apple CEO Steve Jobs first confirmed the company's plans to release its iPad tablet device, many pundits were quick to anoint the new unit as the savior of traditional media. Bringing together content from the worlds of film, television, music, gaming, publishing and the Web, the iPad promises a new kind of more immersive and more integrated user experience, bolstered by enhancements like social networking tools and location-based technologies that exploit the device's 9.7-inch touchscreen and always-on Web connectivity to full effect. No less than Walt Disney Company president and CEO Robert Iger predicted the iPad will emerge as a "game changer," stating during Disney's first quarter earnings call in February that "[the iPad] will enable us to create product that's different from the product that we see on television and Internet-connected television."
Now that the iPad is here, the hype surrounding the product has achieved critical mass. In under a week, Apple sold 450,000 iPad units, notching 3.5 million iPad application downloads and more than 600,000 iBook downloads along the way. According to data issued by Web metrics firm NetApplications.com, the iPad already accounts for 0.03 percent of all online traffic--by comparison, Research In Motion's long-established BlackBerry platform captures just 0.04 percent.
The big bet
It's no wonder so many media giants are betting heavily on the device--while brands like ABC, The Weather Channel and USA Today dominate the first wave of breakout iPad downloads, rival content providers of all shapes and sizes are introducing competing apps of their own. In fact, a recent survey conducted by video asset management systems KIT digital reports that 76.8 percent of senior marketing executives believe an iPad video strategy is crucial to their company's success.
But not only does the iPad enable new entertainment formats and opportunities--it also introduces mobile marketing possibilities to go with them, heralding a new, interactive channel to reach consumers both at home and on-the-go via contextualized, personalized advertisements. "Because users will be consuming a variety of media otherwise consumed on different devices or mediums, the advertiser can reach them whatever they're doing, and reach them in a meaningful and powerful new way," says Dane Holewinski, director of marketing for mobile advertising network Greystripe.
Although the iPad offers advertisers a blank canvas to create custom campaigns tailored for the platform or simply extend their existing digital marketing efforts, the most effective plan of attack is still open to debate. Advertisers and publishers are presently formulating and tweaking their approaches to determine what works on iPad and what doesn't. "The iPad platform is so new that nobody understands what all the marketing opportunities are--we're learning along with our clients," says Jason Yim, founder and CEO of entertainment and youth marketing firm Trigger. Even so, he agrees that the marketing potential is enormous. "This is an audience that can't be ignored," Yim says. "These users are the perfect audience for consuming content. They're always hungry for it."
Ads and interaction
What sets the iPad apart from previous marketing channels is its capacity to seamlessly integrate ads into applications and media content. Apple's own iAd mobile advertising network, announced earlier this month, promises to introduce rich media ads that keep the user within an app, instead of transporting them somewhere else. "What we want to do with iAds is to deliver interaction, but also deliver emotion," Jobs said during a media event unveiling the iAd network. "We have figured out how to do interactive video content without ever taking you out of the apps. We think people are going to be a lot more interested in clicking on these things."
Expect many iPad marketing initiatives to blur the line between entertainment and advertising, with a focus on branded applications that include interactive content like games and video. Case in point: In conjunction with the iPad launch, Trigger debuted a free mobile game touting the upcoming release of client Sony Pictures' remake of The Karate Kid, part of a larger multi-platform campaign to promote the film's June 11 U.S. premiere. "Mobile marketing has to follow an integrated approach," Yim says. "A year and half ago, an iPhone app was newsworthy by itself. But now, an iPad app has to be fully integrated with the rest of your digital and offline media."
It's not simply the technological and conceptual advances that set the iPad apart, however--it's also the consumer niche the device fills. Unlike PCs (hardware tailored for professional tasks, homework, research and related chores) and smartphones (still first and foremost about voice communications and text messaging), the iPad is optimized specifically for entertainment, not utility. "Marketers can push more interactivity, gameplay and narrative--that's the content iPad users are looking for," Yim explains. "It's not like when people are at work or at home doing work on their computer. With the iPad, you've checked out of work stuff, and you're fully engaged in the device. It's also perfectly sized for leisure--it literally fits in your lap, so it's ideal for gaming and watching videos."
A chance for experimentation
The iPad also suggests the dimensions of the average newsstand magazine, a parallel not lost on publishers. With the iPad poised to enable new, multimedia-centric enhancements that revolutionize traditional print formats, publishers are already experimenting with both content and advertising alike. In late March, The Wall Street Journal reported that Time magazine signed marketing agreements with Unilever, Toyota, Fidelity Investments and at least three other brands willing to fork over about $200,000 apiece for a single ad spot in each of the first eight issues of the newsweekly's iPad edition. The Journal report adds that another Time Warner-owned publication, Sports Illustrated, is demonstrating video-enabled advertising prototypes, including a Ford Mustang promo featuring an arcade-style driving game that enables users to tilt and turn the tablet, maximizing the iPad's built-in accelerometer.
"The iPad will enable very unique and customized campaigns," says Holewinski. "As the platform evolves and more content is developed, we're going to see a whole bunch of new and interesting formats and new ways of thinking."
Perhaps the most revolutionary dimension of the iPad marketing paradigm is geolocation. Both the iPad with WiFi and the WiFi + 3G models triangulate user whereabouts to enable location-specific services--although Apple has stated it will reject applications that incorporate location solely to deliver targeted advertising, content providers can still capitalize on location data to deliver more personalized services. "With iPad, you can reach consumers during their leisure time, pinpoint where they're at, and use that information to deliver content to them at a specific location at a specific time," Yim says. "If I'm in a coffee shop, my iPad knows where I'm at and serves content relevant to that location. That's something that's never been achievable before in a meaningful way, not even on the iPhone."
And while no one can accurately anticipate just how dramatically the iPad will shape and reinvent the digital marketing landscape, conventional wisdom suggests its impact will be dramatic. "The iPhone changed human behavior in a way," Yim says. "Now we're at the first step of where it's all evolving from here."