Why You Don't Need a Tablet Marketing Agency

Mobile Agencies Serve a Vital Purpose, but Here's Why It Won't Work for Tablets

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David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz
If every consumer winds up buying a tablet, as countless exhibitors at this year's Consumer Electronics Show are clearing hoping, how are marketers going to reach this audience? Do you need to call a tablet marketing agency?

You may well get calls from agencies positioning themselves that way. Agencies have branded themselves as specialists in location-based marketing, Second Life and, of course, forehead advertising. There have been far more iPads sold than there are people using Foursquare. Forrester Research said there will be more than 80 million tablet PC users in the U.S. by 2015, an estimate TechCrunch implies is conservative. How come the phone's not ringing off the hook with tablet agencies already? For that matter, how come I haven't started one and shopped it around to the major holding companies?

Reason number one: It's a really bad idea. That still will leave some wondering why, especially when one can make a strong case for the need for mobile agencies, or the need for mobile expertise across traditional and digital agency disciplines.

There are several reasons, a number of which came up during my Digital Hollywood session on mobile and tablet marketing at CES this week:

  1. There's a difference between mobile and portable. Your mobile phone goes everywhere with you. It stays within inches of your body, whether in a pocket or purse, and more likely than not you have it with you every time you're in the supermarket, at the movies, and in the bathroom. Tablets are designed to be portable enough to bring along most places, but not to be with you at all times.
  2. There's a difference between mobile and stationary. Mobile devices are designed to be used when you're in motion and physically moving. With tablets, you're sitting down somewhere -- possibly out of the home or office, but in a stationary mode where you might have used a laptop or netbook before.
  3. Mobile devices are designed primarily around communication. Tablets are designed around media consumption. When a mobile device comes out, you want to know how well you can talk, text, and email on it. What are the tablet makers touting at CES? Overwhelmingly, they're showing you how crisp "Avatar" looks on it. It's all about video resolution.
  4. Mobile devices, because they're truly mobile, are especially useful for fulfilling immediate needs. Where's the store? Is something in stock near me? Can I get a better price somewhere else on the way home? Can we see "The King's Speech" at 6:15 or do we go for "The Black Swan" at 6:30? What will those fries add up to in Weight Watchers points? This can change marketing in ways great and small, and in ways that are not so prominent for tablet ads.
  5. Mobile devices are increasingly replacing cameras, watches, car keys, loyalty cards, and credit cards. What do tablets replace? At best, other media delivery vehicles � magazines, books, perhaps the laptop that was too heavy or slow.

Even those like myself who were skeptical when the iPad was first announced must appreciate how marketers will need to find ways to reach this wave of consumers immersed in their tablets. The good news is marketers and agencies can do so by building on their massive body of experience reaching consumers wherever they are, rather than by mastering the new skills required for successful mobile marketing.

David Berkowitz is senior director of emerging media and innovation, 360i.
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