Just a little over a year since its debut, the iPad continues to dominate much of the discussion at marketing and media conferences. Last month's ad:tech San Francisco was no exception.
There's no doubt the iPad launch has been a success, with more than 14 million of the devices sold in 2010, said Andrew Solmssen, managing director of WPP's Possible Worldwide, who moderated an ad:tech session on tablets and advertising.
“Marketers are just not sure where this fits into the overall mix,” he said. As an example, he said Nielsen Co. hadn't decided how to characterize tablet devices.
With such a new platform, marketers have an opportunity to define how consumers use it, Solmssen said. What's crucial is that marketers take advantage of what the new medium offers, he said.
“So many of the tablet ads now, I can't tell if it's a static ad, like a print ad, or something I'm going to interact with,” he said. “People are forgetting a lot of the core principles.”
In the same session, Mike Fischer, CMO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, discussed his company's success with a full-page iPad ad it had recently rolled out. In less than a month, he said, the ad had generated engagement times of more than one minute, with an average of 11 pages viewed, and “tap rates” five times higher than click-through rates for online banners.
In an end-of-the day keynote address filled with generally gloomy predictions for the newspaper and movie industries, Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School, became more positive when he got to the iPad.
“I really believe the iPad is transformational,” said Cole, who is also director of the World Internet Project. “I've never seen a device in my experience that came this close to getting it right the first time.”
Alluding to the launch of the iPad 2 in March, Cole said, “Apple has moved the goal posts before the other teams have taken the field.”
While many of the speakers at ad:tech focused on improved forms of engagement, headliner Arianna Huffington spoke of the need to occasionally disengage in an increasingly connected world—including taking the time to catch some sleep.
In her keynote address, the president and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, addressed three major trends she sees affecting media and marketing.
The first is the rise of “cause marketing,” which Huffington said was even evident in a TV spot for Chivas Regal Scotch that she saw recently. She said that if “humanity is not just good for humanity but for the bottom line, something is happening. There is something very profound happening.”
In connection with this trend is the growing emphasis on local community. “We are moving more and more to local,” Huffington said. “It's not just politics that is local—all human existence is ultimately local.”
AOL, which bought the Huffing- ton Post earlier this year for $315 million, is tapping into this trend with its Patch.com local news sites. “Ultimately, people trust what is happening in their own neighborhood,” Huffington said.
There is a need for such local coverage, she said, because the national media have become disconnected from everyday life. “The media has this false sense of sentimentality,” she said. As an example, she cited the notorious coverage of the “Balloon Boy” saga in 2009.
The third trend Huffington sees is the need to sometimes disengage. “We are inevitably going to need to disconnect from our hyper-connected existence,” she said. “We are all constantly multitasking and, in the process, are missing something.”
Part of what's needed, she said, is for people to get more sleep. “It's very hard to enchant people when you're sleep-deprived,” she said.