Readers of The New York Times iPad app may notice a few changes over the next couple weeks, particularly those who don’t already pay for access to the newspaper’s content. Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic Team, has purchased its second solo sponsorship of the NY Times iPad app, this time with ads featuring exclusive content around the Olympics and other major summer sporting events. By customizing sponsorships of this kind and providing free access to sections of the newspaper, the Times is working with brands to provide more creative license and real estate to deliver media-rich storytelling.
“Normally our iPad app has anywhere from five to eight different advertisers running through it,” said Todd Haskell, group advertising director at the NY Times. In this case, Ralph Lauren effectively purchased all of the app’s ad inventory for the 16-day stretch of the Olympics and in turn is providing users with free access to the sports, fashion, home & garden, travel, T Magazine and Olympics sections of the Times website. Automakers and other luxury brands, such as Chanel, Rolex, and Salvatore Ferragamo have run similar campaigns with the paper.
Brands that choose to sponsor content on the Times iPad app will often pursue multi-dimensional campaign objectives, but there are also obvious e-commerce possibilities, Haskell said. Ralph Lauren’s current ad gives users the ability to shop for official U.S. Olympic Team clothing with custom embroidery.
“Increasingly, brands have complicated brand stories to tell and they look for places where they can tell those stories where they have the type of reader engagement that’s going to let them tell that story,” said Haskell. “Our digital platforms lends [themselves] really well to telling these complex stories.” The environment and development framework of tablets also unlocks more “ambitious creative to tell these kinds of more complicated stories,” he added.
In addition to banner ads that sit on every page of content in the app, “The Sports of Summer” ad creative from Ralph Lauren includes exclusive video interviews with athletes, biographies and high-end photography of 15 U.S. Olympians donning threads from the clothing-maker’s collection for the games and a special edition of RL Magazine.
“Ralph Lauren is a very innovative brand in general. One of the things they do differently than some other brands is they have their own in-house content team,” said Eric Litman, CEO of Medialets, a rich media ad platform provider that worked on the campaign.
“They’ve taken over The New York Times iPad app. There are no other ads running during this period,” Litman said.
Medialets, which focuses primarily on mobile, has found that the level of engagement on tablets is close to what marketers also see on smartphones. “Ads that are uniquely designed for tablet experiences significantly outperform ads that repurpose executions from other media…. Having the call-to-action, for example … clearly calling out how people use the tablets, getting people to touch the interface in particular, drives much higher response rates.”
According to a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau UK, 83 percent of study participants said ads that take advantage of touch screen capabilities of tablets was important to them.
The Ralph Lauren sponsorship “allows them the ability to be associated with something other than just displaying a brand message,” Litman said. “We see really great response rates to the commerce-oriented and the action-oriented campaigns that people are running.”
Back at the Times, Haskell isn’t only focused on selling ad inventory for the iPad app. “Our approach with the iPad is complete transparency and accountability,” he said. That The Times is continuing to evolve with the tablet opportunity and working with ad technology and rich media companies to ensure it provides the standard performance, campaign management and data tools that brands need to justify their spend in a still somewhat experimental medium. “We think that’s table stakes in this business,” he said. “For the tablet space to continue to evolve, it just has to happen.”