Over a year since advertiser content started appearing on Apple's iPad, brands and agencies are still coming to grips with the tablet opportunity. Apple alone has reported selling over 25 million tablets in the past 14 months, and recent additions to the market from manufacturers including Samsung and RIM are further accelerating uptake.
However despite the large and growing audience, brands remain in an experimental phase, agencies say. "We're in a testing and exploration phase… It's still early days in the product's evolution," said Paul Gelb, VP and mobile practice lead for Publicis-owned Razorfish. "It's not something every brand is jumping into yet, but it makes sense for some."
Razorfish client Mercedes bought a display campaign in the New York Times iPad application earlier this year, which Gelb said returned positive results, specifically around video content featured within it.
Speaking at the OMMA Tablet Revolution event in New York City this week, fellow agency execs concurred that tablet marketing remains in its infancy, but suggested brands such as Mercedes that invest early will be at an advantage as the channel matures. "The iPad is the fastest selling consumer electronics device in history… Advertisers need to start thinking about tablet activity now, because they'll have no choice but to be doing so in three years," said Derek Handley, co-founder and CEO of The Hypefactory.
Meanwhile marketers early to the tablet party have already gleaned valuable insights into consumer behavior and creative experiences. "Our early learnings are that people expect to be able to interact with advertising on these devices in the same way as everything else - by swiping, zooming, and pinching," said Jeremy Lockhorn, VP of emerging media at Razorfish.
Apple itself took that approach with the rollout of its iAd product last year, and focused on creating detailed interactive experiences versus simple expandable banner or video ads, for example. Following the launch of the product, Apple even insisted on handling creative for the ads itself to ensure quality and stability, an approach that alienated some agencies.
The iAd is now available on the iPad as well as the iPhone and the iPod Touch, and advertisers are already reporting differences in the ways consumers interact with the ads across platforms. According to Michael Fischer, CMO of real estate franchise Coldwell Banker, users engage with its iAds for an average of over a minute, and do so for longer on the iPad than on the iPhone. iAd engagement rates are also "two to three times higher than regular display ads," Fischer said, adding that the brand's experience with the Apple ad network is already informing its tablet strategy elsewhere.
Though Fischer was bullish on the medium, not all brands appear to have found as much success with their tablet activity. According to Rachel Pasqua, VP of mobile at iCrossing, the channel makes sense for some brands more than others, but more so those in the luxury and entertainment space, for example. "It's about figuring out if it makes sense for your brand… We're not seeing a mass exodus of budget leaving the web just yet. It's an evolution, not a fad," she said.
Despite that fact, most agencies appear positive about the future of tablets as a robust platform for brands. "It's exciting to be part of this space because consumer behavior around tablets is pretty favorable for marketers," Gelb said.
Handley agreed, suggesting tablets will emerge as a prominent channel for advertisers as they continue to proliferate. "You can't dismiss this as a fad or a trend… These devices are creating a new paradigm," he said.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
March 19, 2014