Unlike Media Brands, Marketers Slow to Embrace the IPad

Ad Age Kicks the Tires on the Limited Branded Apps in Apple's Store

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- While 2009 was arguably the year brands embraced the iPhone, developing apps left and right, the iPad doesn't seem to have inspired the same enthusiasm.

Magazines have embraced the iPad, but despite the product's hype, larger screen and dual-touch technology, brands haven't followed suit. By Ad Age's count, there are only a handful of iPad branded apps not from content companies, out of the 11,000 apps explicitly built for the tablet in the App Store.

Why? It may be the numbers. Since the iPad rolled out in April, 3.27 million devices have been sold. That's only a fraction of the 100 million gadgets running on Apple's operating system -- 95% of those are iPhones and iPod Touches, estimates Raven Zachary, president of Apple-devices agency Small Society. Quite simply, brands have the potential to reach more people with iPhone than iPad, especially because iPhone apps can be viewed on the larger device, too.

But it's still early days, said Mr. Zachary; the iPad is only a few months old and is not yet global. But he expects iPad will go the way of iPhone. In 2008, some brands tested the app waters and were soon joined by an influx six to nine months later. Agency reports also support that trend, that a number of brand apps for iPad are in the works.

"I do think we are going to see a considerable number of brand iPad apps that aren't just iPhone apps formatted for a larger screen," Mr. Zachary said. "It took some time before a large number of brands really embraced the iPhone. The same sort of thing is occurring now for iPad."

But this lack of brand apps on iPad may be a sign that the era of the brand app is over, said Chris Cunningham, CEO and co-founder of Appssavvy, an agency that brings brands to existing apps from developers.

"The industry has become more educated of the pros and cons of building apps vs. sponsoring," said Mr. Cunningham. "Leveraging an existing app is a much safer bet because there already is an installed user base."

He thinks some brands may not be turning to the iPad because they were burned by the iPhone. "You don't see many branded apps because they had attempted to build on iPhone and failed," Mr. Cunningham said. With the cost of building an app from scratch and promoting it to get downloads, some brands are partnering with developers who already have an audience on these platforms instead.

Regardless of what the future holds, early branded apps have already popped up on iPad. So, Ad Age gave them a look to see what works, what doesn't and where there's room for improvement.

Kraft: Big Fork Little Fork
This app is chock full of Kraft products, especially Singles cheese, packaged as recipes. This app is different from its iPhone predecessor, iFood Assistant, because it's an editorial experience designed for parents with young kids. Also, in addition to kid-friendly recipes, there are cooking-show-like video demonstrations, sections on child nutrition and fitness, and lessons for kids to help out in the kitchen. All in all, the app does a good job of making use of the larger touch screen with two games for kids and picture-heavy navigation. It also represents new territory for the food brand and continues its mandate to bring consumers utility.

Gap: 1969 Stream
Like Big Fork's home-screen navigation, Gap's app for its 1969 denim line opens with a large, clickable collage of photos, tweet streams, videos and blog posts. The app launched in April with the device and featured a music video filmed for the brand. (That video is also available on Facebook.) The collage tab takes full advantage of iPad's larger screen and multi-directional scroll. The app also features a store finder and a shopping page. Shopping wholly mimics the web experience, though it's admittedly sexier on the iPad. While the 1969 Stream collage is the most unique iPad feature, the content does not refresh and does little to warrant a second visit. This offering is an interactive brand app served up with a bit of shopping, though the two experiences don't cross over.

Pottery Barn Catalog Viewer
This app is a virtual bookshelf of the retailer's print catalogs slapped into an iPad app. Each of the catalogs must be individually downloaded. The user can flip through the static pages and zoom in to get a closer look at images -- but the pages are not clickable and there's no store or link to buy. Users can share the catalogs via email. The app is far more clumsy than a print catalog experience and is, frankly, a missed opportunity for a medium so well-suited to e-commerce. "The e-commerce experience is more compelling on the iPad than on a smaller screen device -- its easier to browse a catalog and fill out forms," said Small Society's Mr. Zachary.

Weber's On the Grill
At $4.99, this is the most expensive brand app reviewed by Ad Age, though it's also the most extensive and our favorite. (The only other paid app, Kraft's Big Fork, costs $1.99 and is similarly content rich.) The Weber app contains recipes, how-to videos, grocery lists and a grill timer. Don't know how long that roast should cook? Enter the weight and type of meat, and the app will set the clock and let you know when the meat's done. Users can also email grocery lists or recipes, which are nicely formatted for printing. The app also features videos and food photos. It will take even the most active cook some time to get through all this content, which features something for newbies to master chefs alike. In short, this app is well worth five bucks. As a video-rich, digital cookbook, Weber has made great use of the format, making it a nice kitchen or grill companion. What's more, the grilling app has the potential to get consumers using Weber products more, or build affinity for the brand.

E-Trade Mobile Pro for iPad
This app provides another portal for existing E-Trade customers. It contains news, market data, video from CNBC and stock quotes as well as a way to manage your portfolio. While most of the content is user-specific and requires a log-in, the app offers a lot of content to inform trading and also means to do so. Navigation is also sophisticated and easy to use.

This app is a one-trick pony and doesn't bring anything new to the custom-shoe-design experience Nike fans already know from the web. Unlike NikeID on the web, this app only allows users to customize one type of shoe. Users tap parts of the shoe to select colors and materials and create their design. Once the shoe is finished, users can share via Twitter or Facebook. Some of the proceeds from sales go to charity, though it seems like users would do better to visit the more extensive experience online.

Despite featuring a "Shop" tab, this app does not enable e-commerce. It's basically a digitized circular that organizes sales and offers by department and product. The "sale" tab exhibits one static image -- a coupon with a code that needs to be presented at check out. But there's no e-mail option, so users need to present their iPad at purchase or write down the code for later. The app also has a section of four videos that seem a bit random, ranging in topic from back-to-school to a brand interview.

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