IPad's Early Adopters Are Gazing at the Ads -- for Now

Pointroll Says Target, Ford, Marriott, Unilever Seeing High Engagement Rates After Four Weeks on Platform

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's early days for advertising on Apple's iPad, but advertisers running campaigns on the device over the last four weeks say people are watching -- and a lot more than your typical rich-media web ad.

A Pointroll iPad campaign for Ford's Lincoln brand.
A Pointroll iPad campaign for Ford's Lincoln brand.
Much of that can probably be explained by the fact that the iPad's early adopters find just about everything on the device -- including the ads -- a curiosity. The question is whether those rates will stay high once the novelty of the device wears off.

Gannett-owned ad technology company Pointroll has placed four iPad campaigns so far, including ads for Ford, Unilever, Marriott and Target within the iPad edition of USA Today, part of its parent company, and the communications app TextPlus. Pointroll says interaction times for ads on the iPad are averaging about 30 seconds. Click-through rates have been between 0.9% and 1.5%, six times the benchmark for click-to-expand ads on the web.

That's both an indictment of web advertising in general and the click-through specifically as a measure of performance, but it is giving marketers another reason to continue to experiment on the iPad beyond the halo effect of being "first" on a hot new device.

"We're approaching it as a trial," said Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager at Ford Motor Co. "This is all new territory and we are in experimentation mode."

Early iPad advertisers are eager to experiment with the new platform to see how campaigns perform and how best to approach it, either directly through publishers -- as was the case with the Pointroll campaigns -- or as a network ad buy via iAd, which is launching in July.

"Should we do an iAd, go direct to the publisher or wait for [Google's] Android to do the same thing?" Mr. Kelly said. "We want the targeting and the interactivity of the big screen where you can do 360 [degree] views and videos -- we're just trying to find the most economical way to do that."

Ford hasn't yet committed dollars to the iAd platform, but it is considering it. Key is the ability to create an ad once to use on many platforms, which is complicated by different formats and technologies, namely the iPad, which doesn't handle Adobe's Flash, the dominant technology for web ads.

"It challenges us to come up with ads that are more personal, because there is less tolerance for interruptive ads," Mr. Kelly said. Notably, ads on Pandora's iPad app don't stop the music, allowing users to look and continue to listen, if they wish.

Catherine Spurway, Pointroll VP-advertising and marketing, said the company is encouraging marketers to think of the iPad as a another device in their marketing plans, one that moves the internet beyond the PC.

"What is unique about the iPad is they are truly the most tactile device, with a larger screen where you are actually moving the content with your hands, not a mouse or keyboard," she said. "This is a more immersive experience than the lean back of TV or the lean forward of the PC. You are part of the content."

The company believes it will also make ads for the iAd platform, but have yet to get clarity on. It would appear to have an inside track given it serves TBWA's rich-media ads for Apple on the web, but execs there say they haven't been given clarity on the topic.

Regardless, advertisers will be able to access the iPad through the publishers themselves, which is how all advertising on the platform exists today.

"We're also looking forward to seeing how iAd pans out," said Pointroll CEO Jason Tafler. "Its rich-media capabilities, like tying geolocation and its accelerometer into ads, are really interesting and we're eager to incorporate those and start running ads with iAd as well hopefully in the near future."

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