Marketers must rethink how they approach tablet computers.
The explosive adoption of tablets is causing just about everyone to ponder the ultimate role of these devices. Because tablets are general-purpose machines, users can just as easily surf the web, watch a movie, play a game, or tap into a business application, which makes them a potential replacement for laptops, TVs, and game consoles - or not.
If discussions at the recent Clean Slate 2011 conference are any indication, we'd be wise to consider tablets in the context of an ecosystem rather than viewing them myopically as discrete devices.
Each device - smartphone, TV, laptop, set-top box, and in-vehicle infotainment system - represents a touch point through which we want to reach and profit from engaged audiences. And a tablet is one more touch point.
Tablets as a Supplemental Entertainment Device
At this conference, it was clear that device manufacturers, content providers, and service providers are starting to view tablets as part of an entertainment ecosystem. While it is possible to watch TV shows and movies on tablets (and a lot of people are watching video on tablets), tablets are not a replacement for TVs because size matters. We prefer watching movies and sports on large screens because the experience is more immersive. Tablets, nevertheless, have a role to play as controllers and interactive devices. The idea is to deliver a layered experience in which audiences can observe and participate (engage) simultaneously.
Of course, many of us have heard all this before. The original concept was "digital convergence" and "interactive television," but the idea as implemented didn't quite fly because consumers didn't want to watch TV and sit in front of a desktop or laptop at the same time. The experience was bad. Tablets, on the other hand, are a different type of device: instant-on, touch based, and ideal for curling up on a couch, unlike PCs and laptops. Tablets provide a practical medium through which audiences can immerse themselves interactively while watching a game show, for example.
Show Me the Money
The question is this: How are we going to profit from tablets? Companies like Samsung are encouraging potential industry partners to invest in the digital entertainment ecosystem, but those with and without deep pockets are concerned about ROI - how much and when? Today, there's not enough of a tablet market to convince advertisers they should drop a TV spot to target iPads.
On the other hand, web advertising faced the same problem years ago versus broadcast and print advertising. It's a market maturity issue that reminds us we have to view new mediums from an integrated, multi-channel point of view. We're not going to cash in immediately, but it is wise to experiment and learn in the meantime.
While we understand the importance of targeting content and advertising to audiences, it can be difficult to convince some advertisers to invest in increasingly smaller audiences, unless and until the ROI justifies it. CPM is getting a bad name because it's less compelling than its performance advertising counterparts. Yet, when it comes to entertainment, very large numbers may still be considered better numbers even though the aggregate effect of very small, passionate audiences can be huge.
Although tablets do not represent an immediate revenue opportunity, they do provide another opportunity to reach audiences. Viewed in the context of an ecosystem, the possibilities are virtually endless for the entertainment industry and beyond. It's up to us to innovate, experiment, and help shape the models that actually work.
What topics related to tablet PCs would you like me to cover in coming months?
A. Tactics for search engine optimization
B. Review of tablet-based applications for vertical markets
C: Location-based applications for tablet PCs
D: How to effectively market applications for tablet PCs
Let me know what you would like to see covered. Drop me a line or post a comment below.
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Steve Eisenberg is principal of Media Resource Networks (MRN). MRN is a consulting firm specializing in business development and Internet strategy with expertise in online video and mobile marketing.
He also worked for seven years at the Walt Disney Co. He developed online marketing strategies for ABC Entertainment advertising clients, including General Motors, Procter & Gamble, and Barnes & Noble, resulting in increased ad revenue by $1 million. Steve also received a business citation from Michael Dell on success of a partnership between ABCNews.com, Microsoft, and Dell for producing an online promotion with Good Morning America.
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