Five Best Practices for Ads in Magazines' IPad Apps

Repurposing TV Commercials Is a Bad Idea, Conde Nast Research Suggests

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NEW YORK ( -- Six months after the Apple iPad arrived amid great expectations from print publishers, it's becoming clear that consumers haven't always been using the device or its apps quite as expected.

Many iPads aren't really being used as mobile devices, according to extensive research by Conde Nast, whose titles on the iPad include The New Yorker, Wired, Glamour and GQ. "A lot of people are using them at this stage as household devices," said Scott McDonald, senior VP for market research at Conde. "That means multiple readers per copy but it also means they're not necessarily true mobile devices yet."

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Those realizations have implications going forward. Multiple readers is good because advertisers want to reach as many people as possible. Although tracking software has indicated that people are spending lots of time with magazine apps for the iPad, on the other hand, multiple readers per iPad would suggest that individuals aren't responsible for as many minutes of use as it initially appeared. And that matters because time spent is one way that publishers and advertisers try to gauge reader engagement.

If iPads are household devices and not getting carried around, moreover, it might be less important to build certain kinds of location-based functions into ads and editorial.

IPad owners also weren't quite who you might have thought. "Even though we expected almost everybody to be already in the Apple family or be Apple cultists, that wasn't true," Mr. McDonald said. "For a lot of people this was their first Apple device. That ends up being really important for both advertising and editorial content creation because if you design these things thinking everybody already knows about swiping, pinching and zooming, you're going to leave people behind."

Assuming familiarity with Apple devices' control schemes led some advertisers and editors to go easy on the on-screen instructions. That in turn left some people totally unaware of the bells, whistles and extra content that was available.

It was pretty easy for even Apple newbies to pick up horizontal swiping, Conde research showed, but vertical swiping proved less obvious. "If you have content that goes below the page, you better make sure it's clear with a little arrow or something," Mr. McDonald said.

Conde Nast, which is presenting its findings to 70 marketing and media executives on Wednesday, used its research results to come up with five suggested best practices for advertising in magazines' iPad editions. Some seem obvious, but the fact that they kept cropping up in consumer conversations and surveys shows that they haven't been always observed.

1. Take advantage of the new platform's functionality. Users liked ads better when they provided experiences that print could not, such as video, photo galleries and links to websites. One successful ad unit promoting a new TV series kicked off with video of the star addressing the magazine's readers and naming the magazine.

2. Provide clear instructions. It might clutter up the page a bit, but it's better than seeing consumers swipe past without even knowing about those extras you included.

3. Don't repurpose your TV commercials or other materials you created for other media. "We had advertisers who just had a 30-second TV spot," Mr. McDonald said. "It had already been seen a lot of times. That repurposing for no other purpose than that it was convenient didn't work so well."

4. Tell a story. Consumers remembered the ads best when they contained narratives, Conde found. "You had some video that was created that wouldn't have been for anything but this device," Mr. McDonald said. "It showed people how to use the product being advertised, a hair product, with an in-depth how-to. It had a little story but it demonstrated something actually useful."

5. Help consumers move closer to buying. That could mean offering more information about product colors or sizes or it could go all the way to in-app purchasing. Offering a link and nothing else fares poorly in comparison.

Follow Nat Ives on Twitter.

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