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Agencies Will Be Tempted by IPad's Sizzle, Not Strategy

It's the Next Shiny New Object, but Can It Earn a Place in Real-World Marketing Strategies?

By Published on . 8

David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz
As I write this on my iPad digesting the week's Apple news, it's amazing how one company is tempting marketers and agencies two times over in under a week: first with the iPad's debut, and then with the launch of its mobile ad network iAds (a service so new the iPad automatically changes the spelling to "aids").

The iPad's biggest challenge to agencies is trying to avoid the temptation caused by their love for bright shiny objects. By dangling this new lure that's as attractive as anything one could imagine made of glass and aluminum, many agencies will include it in their pitches and plans without thinking whether it's the best platform for meeting their clients' objectives. There are benefits for getting on there early, and it may scale enough that it's worth marketing specifically to iPad users, but now the safe bet is most iPad marketing ideas are for show, not for strategy.

It also muddies the waters of mobile marketing. Is it really mobile? There's no phone, text messaging or always-on connection (for Wifi-only models), so it doesn't fit all the traditional criteria for mobile. I discussed this with Jordan Rohan, a managing director at Thomas Weisel Partners, and he called the iPad "semi-mobile." It's like how the iPhone browser is sort of a mobile browser but sort of like a full web browser. Apple loves adding shades of gray.

Since the iPad launch, Apple announced the iAds platform (please stop changing it to "aids," iPad!), which will support a rich media-esque format using HTML 5, not the Flash that marketers have come to know and tolerate. This will create even more mobile fragmentation, requiring new creative builds to work on the platform. Clearly mobile is splintering more before it comes together. Will it be worth it to create separate ads just for Apple's devices? Probably, given the 85 million iPhones and iPod Touches sold and the 4 billion apps downloaded; the iPad will only add to the scale. But these ads will incorporate different forms of targeting and metrics than marketers are currently accustomed to, and they will only run in Apple apps -- not the mobile Web, and not on the vast majority of devices in use from other manufacturers.

Marketers will win out overall with richer and more pervasive experiences across Apple's mobile and semi-mobile devices. But in the short term, Apple isn't making anyone's lives easier, except maybe mine, since without multitasking functionality on the iPad, I was able to focus on writing this without any distractions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Berkowitz is senior director of Emerging Media & Innovation, 360i.
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