Marketers from Nike to Fidelity Investments have been scrambling to land a spot on Apple’s iPad in time for its launch this weekend. But for all the excitement about its advertising potential, the device has posed serious challenges in crafting campaigns.
Among campaigns set to roll out this over the next few weeks, Nike is releasing an iPad application for soccer enthusiasts dubbed “Nike Football+ Coach Edition,” which will give soccer coaches information to help train athletes. The app, created by AKQA, an interactive ad firm in San Francisco, will include instructional drill videos. One feature allows coaches to test their squads against pros like Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
MillerCoors will be sponsoring Sporting News, a sports magazine that will be part of an app from Zinio.com, a digital magazine company. The brewer will offer a Coors Light video that plays before clips from sporting events. Meanwhile, consumer-products company, Unilever will be running ads for its Degree deodorant brand in Time magazine’s iPad app. Its ads, which will use video, promote a contest that it is conducting with the Discovery Channel, letting fans compete for a chance to appear on the “Fan vs Wild” show.
Madison Avenue and marketers say the iPad will give a much-needed boost to the mobile-ad market, which despite much hype has been slow to live up to expectations. Spending on mobile ads in the U.S. reached just $416 million in 2009—up from $320 million in 2008—according to market-research firm eMarketer.
“[The iPad] is mobile advertising but without the limitations of a mobile phone,” says Steve Pacheco, director of advertising and marketing communications at FedEx. “It has more functionality and the screen size is bigger,” which lends itself to more creative ads.
Still, advertisers have to navigate obstacles such as the absence on the iPad of Adobe Systems’ Flash video technology. Many publishers use Flash to showcase their multimedia content and it is an underlying technology of online ads and Web sites.
If consumers visit Flash-enabled Web sites or click on ads that are created with Flash while using the iPad, they may be presented with an error message or a distorted site. That, ad executives say, can hurt a brand’s reputation if consumers become frustrated.
The technology challenges are “something we have to work through,” says Craig Bierley, marketing manager for GM’s Buick. “Our intent is to be careful about the user experience.”
Some Buick ads for the midsized LaCrosse sedan, appearing in The Wall Street Journal’s app, will send readers to a non-Flash Web site. Buick originally wanted to have them directed to its main Web site, Buick.com, but that site uses Flash. It also tried to direct traffic to its mobile-phone site, which doesn’t use Flash, but the site looked too small on the iPad. “It was not pretty,” says Pamela Neville, a manager at Digitas, a digital ad firm owned by Publicis Groupe that works with GM. The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.
Advertising executives say the creativity on display in the initial wave of ads may fall short of expectations because f many marketers had to design their campaigns blindfolded. FVery few agencies and advertisers have had their hands on a device, making the rapid-fire product development a challenge.
Fidelity Investments’ ads appearing in Time magazine’s iPad app won’t have external links, in part because Fidelity says it doesn’t want to direct people to a stripped-down mobile version of its Web site. “We’re flying a little bit blind,” says Jim Speros, chief marketing officer of Fidelity. Fidelity will run static print ads promoting various brokerage services in the Time app, and will layer in some digital video.
Advertisers and agencies have more adventurous features in the works. Millennial Media, a mobile-ad technology company based in Baltimore, is introducing a series of features for the iPad that have become widely used on the iPhone, such as an interactive option that allows users to turn their iPads in different ways. A user could simulate pouring a beverage into a glass by physically turning the iPad from a portrait to a landscape.Jason Tafler, chief executive of PointRoll, an ad technology company owned by publisher Gannett, says it is building digital circular ads, typically found in the Sunday newspapers. Based on a user’s location, the ads will feature local offers and let consumer send coupons to their cell phones.
Among other hurdles is the issue of tracking. Marketers are likely to have a hard time telling how many people interacted with their ads unless they work with a tech company to measure the campaign’s performance. Kia Motors America has decided not to jump into the iPad fray just yet, in part because of the lack of measurement.
Michael Sprague, Kia’s vice president of marketing says, “As soon as there is something that is credible in terms of measurement, we will dip our toe in the water.”