The consensus is that this is just a new platform that will provide early-adopters with more of a publicity boost than an effective advertising vehicle.
This, to an extent, is understandable.
While Apple says it has sold 1 million iPads to date, faster than the iPhone reached 1 million in sales, the potential reach is still small. Analysts are forecasting potentially 2.7 million units sold by 2010 and 8 million for 2011, but this pales in comparison to other platforms. (Still, at 2 million to 3 million units sold this year, the iPad will be comparable to the existing number of TiVo subscribers - a base built over many years).
The price of entry for both consumers and advertisers is still high. In addition to the cost of the device, many consumers are bristling at the current iPad print subscription pricing models, which are generally more expensive than newsstand prices. Advertisers are wondering if the high costs associated with iPad content offerings are worth the reach delivered. At this stage, there are no guarantees on impression delivery, and no agreement as to when audience metrics might be available.
Apps available from media titles to date are also limited. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today are available, but magazine offerings, with some notable exceptions - Time, Wired, Popular Science -- are sparse. ABC is the only network app offered so far, and it is doing very well with more than 1.5 million episodes of ABC television shows viewed since April.
These limitations are to be expected of an early stage platform. Yet the ad industry view seems to be that while the iPad is a "shiny new toy" that creatives will rush to utilize, it is far from an advertising game changer.
The problem, perhaps, is that the industry's focus, to date, has been on the iPad's application rather than its implication.
For example, following its introduction, the iPod changed the way we thought about music. It made all prior formats of music seem old and obsolete. And not just in the way that CDs made audiocassettes old and obsolete, but in a radically different way. The same is true of the iPhone. It intrinsically changed the way in which we view mobile platforms.
The genius of Apple is not in technology or design, but in understanding the potential for media and content engagement. The company has a unique understanding of the emotional role that media and content plays. This is what makes the potential for the iPad so intriguing.
Because it is more mobile than a laptop or notebook and can easily be held in bed or couch and shared with others, it is a truly communal device. And because it has a larger screen than existing mobile devices, it is conducive to greater content consumption. Since you can "cradle" it and "touch" it, the user is in direct contact with media without the barrier of a mouse. You feel as if you are manipulating the content, that it is an extension of you. As a result, you are more engaged with it.
The potential for advertising on this new platform is impressive. iPad is not a replacement for linear television, or really any other media, but rather a complement. With it, networks can create apps that add community to the mix, such as Facebook, Twitter integration, instant messaging. We can also consider interactive programming/videos from advertisers, networks and/or producers.
Plus, the iPad can offer print the ability for embedded video, interactive audio/video ads, couponing, social media, blogging, web linking and much more.
Because the iPad alters the way that consumers engage with content, it will also affect they way they engage with advertising. Yes, the novelty of this interactivity will wear off, but will the way consumers think of advertising stay the same once they experience it through this platform? Will they "experience" advertising in a manner they have never before? Will it help make advertising almost as anticipated and desired as content itself?
iPad for the moment is an intriguing "shiny new toy" for advertisers. But once consumers experience ads in this format, it will change their perception of what advertising can deliver. Their view of "traditional" advertising might be irrevocably changed ; it might just come to seem old, "inactive," static and limited -- just the way CDs did.
And that may be the greatest significance of this new platform. It may come to re-define what is and should be an ad.