Apple chief Steve Jobs famously dissed mobile ads with a short and sweet verdict: they suck. There’s little doubt the design freak in Jobs would feel warm and fuzzy towards that prosaic Web banner. The iPad, something of a hybrid between mobile and laptop, promised to change that by giving publishers a big canvas to display rich creative ads.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Right now, tablet ads aren’t a whole lot different than typical Web ads, said Marc Ruxin, chief innovation officer, Universal McCann, at yesterday’s Mobile Upfront event. That means clients’ expectations may need to be tempered, for the time being.
Tablet ads today are “just display ads on another screen,” said Ruxin. And while ads on mobile phones often offer 100 percent share of voice, “tablets are more of a Web advertising experience. They are still in their nascent stage.”
Of course Apple wanted to change that with its iAds platform, which added placements for iPad last December. IAds has met with any number of challenges in truly taking off. Others have introduced more innovative ad formats. Flipboard, for example, is running magazine-style full-page placements. The Daily is also testing unique, tablet-oriented advertising.
“Those are not just repurposed ads,” he said.
One tablet tactic that Ruxin and several other panelists warned against — building apps for specific brands, unless they serve an unmet utility.
One possible exception, according to Ben Webley, head of global advertising and sponsorships at EA, mobile might be tablet-based gaming apps, which he argued provide better opportunities for brands than mobile games.
While EA has been in the mobile space for a long time, “We can really bring the quality we do so well in consoles [to tablets],” said Webley. “We can now unleash that. The old jamba phones were very limited. It was very difficult to create an amazing experience.”
Most everyone agreed tablet computers like the iPad are different enough that they require an approach for advertising distinct from mobile phones, not to mention ads on the PC-based Web.
“I think it represents a paradigm shift,” said Chris Colborn, chief experience officer, R/GA. “Tablets are a consumption platform, but they are very tactile. So you’re seeing advertising blending with content and commerce.”
That trend has particular implications for retail brands, added Colborn, who predicted that more and more shoppers will start using iPads in stores to research products and check inventory availabilty — and store employees will likely do the same.
“It really reinvents considered purchases, complex purchases,” added Colborn.