Found in the NPR app and the latest app issues of Vanity Fair and New Yorker, the unit looks like a stock one-pager from a magazine. A brown leather billfold shows a Visa card peeping out and invites you to tap. Of course it opens and the sleeves reveal theater tickets, movie tickets, a room key and VISA card. Tap into most of these and the billfold flattens and pops up a 3D diorama with hot buttons. Tap the proscenium arch in one scene and a video clip from the Broadway show "Memphis" turns in a window. Tap the Fandango offering and the theater scene collapses and reassembles as a movie theater with hot buttons on screen (movie preview), seats (movie ticket discount), and usher (link to personal concierge services). Likewise, the Luxury Hotel Collection item remixes the diorama as an island beach, and one of the items offers a 360 view of a hotel room and links to more.
The ad unit catches my eye on a few counts. First, it leverages the lushness and the sense of depth the tablet/touch interface offers. Despite its being a glassy flat plane, the touch device has a dimensionality to it -- if only because you touch it. It invites this kind of faux-3D design. And yeah, I'll say it: There is a sense of magic to it that this ad captures but eludes the just-OK Citi iAd that launched in recent weeks. That ad lets you drag across a street scene and tap on stock characters for their "story." I have no idea why I want tot know any of their stories, actually. But somehow the simple playfulness and creativity of the Visa unit makes me want to initiate the journey to see what is next.
But because the ad engages us on a tactile level it also goes further in explaining and dramatizing the benefits of the Visa signature service. I tend to dismiss ubiquitous credit card brand advertising. Its main, rather predictable purpose is to sell us consumption itself. These guys win no matter what you buy -- so just keep doing it. And since I don't use credit cards myself, their attempts at differentiating themselves from one another is invisible to me.
This ad, on the other hand, succeeded in communicating product attributes and a bit of brand character. The ad illustrates the range and depth of Visa Signature services in ways that mere video or print alone couldn't do. And I am not so sure that the ad would have the same effect on an interactive Web page. I think over time we may come to see that touching is different from mouse clicking, and some of the attempts at interactivity online that fell flat may work better on touch interfaces.
But also remarkable about this ad is that it is made in HTML5. According to AKQA, it is one of the first brand ads for the iPad built entirely on the emerging platform. And it shows how flexible the language can be. It certainly feels app-like in the range of functions it offers.
I still find room to quibble. I wish some of the cool tap-through opportunities here didn't drop me into a same-old, same-old Web page. When you create as engaging a front end as this, it is all the more jarring to get tossed back into the fugly Web. Most of all, the ad really could be of service. It has these Broadway, hotel and Fandango links, after all. So why not pull in full movie schedules and ticket purchase opps for whatever the consumer wants -- and not just the ones featured in the marketing partnerships?
Imagine if an ad started in this form as an obvious promotion -- but then morphed into a real app that carried persistent functionality? The final button could be "Turn this ad into a new app'" or "Make your own Visa wallet" of functions you need. That is still the magic trick we are waiting for touch devices to do: turn advertisers into service providers.