You Can Put the Brand Onto The IPad, But You Can't Put The IPad Into The Brand

It's always good to see brands support a nascent platform like the iPad and make an honest effort to blend with the new surroundings. So I don't mean to discourage anyone. But we are still waiting for a brand to stand out with a singular experience that leverages the technology, the screen, and the occasion for use. It is time to do a first pass at iPad ads.

The New York Times' Editor's Choice edition has been sponsored for a while by Capegemini consulting. A banner across the bottom of the page invites the user to swipe a couple of times to reveal messaging and then a click-through to the company's standard Web site. This is a good smart use of the touch mechanics to reveal messaging. An occasional full-page interstitial invites you to shake the iPad and reveal ever more headlines and text. "Get a Feel for CapeGemini's Touch," reads the header. Text? On an iPad? The opportunity for creativity is so great here and they are asking me to read blocks of raw text? "Innovators Never Stop Pushing forward" reads the tagline on one of the banners. Good. Don't stop pushing.

There is still some weird business going on in pre-rolls on iPad apps like Hulu Plus. While the overall video quality of the TV episodes in the app is fine, the Cheez-It spot I saw the other day was decidedly low-res, and the accompanying banner ad that kicked me out to a Safari browser was downright regressive. A similar below-the-video banner in Univision's otherwise fine video app for iPad kicked me out to a 404 error page every time I tried to click through, although Univision was at least polite enough to keep me in its app.

A number of in-app units lift off strong but suffer from hard landings. The Weather Channel app has a great rich-media unit for Toyota that asks you to swipe a photo of the now-famous Sienna family dad so he can recline in the comfy car seat. Animated ZZZs float out. But like some other iPad ads, this one clicks through to the standard mobile Toyota site.

The landing site is very nicely done, with large badges to navigate into key areas, but at some point advertisers are going to have to find something between their smartphone-optimized sites and their standard Web sites to use for iPad ad landing pages.

Likewise, AP Mobile has a great new ad unit in its river of news headlines that floats down into the flow of story cels. This one is for Energizer. But it clicks through to a landing site that is obviously formatted and sized for the phone. It actually occupies little more than a quarter of the iPad screen. Publishers generally aren't controlling landing pages, of course, but the brands should realize that a creative opening merits an equally interesting follow-through.

One Coca-Cola ad I have seen is getting closer to a genuine iPad experience. A "Live Positively" banner clicks through to a large high-res image of mother and daughter on a green field, with instructions to rotate the tablet into portrait mode to "start your experience." The unit moves us through several screens of large, lush images of product and very simple messaging about the steps Coke is taking to make its products healthier and its company socially responsible. The nice part of the ad is that it does more than a smart phone unit but doesn't overestimate what the tablet best delivers. It uses the medium as a billboard, not a magazine.

Magazines have been trying to wring premium ad rates from clients for placement in the iPad versions of their titles, but it is hard to see what added value clients are getting from this. Almost all of the magazine app ads I have seen simply click through to Web sites that are not necessarily optimized for touch or the iPad portrait mode.

Embedded video of TV spots seems to be the first answer to the questions of what to do with an iPad-ified space. But as much as publishers and some advertisers dream of turning the iPad into just another TV branding experience, I don't see it as the best use of the platform for print. One of the best ads I have seen so far in a magazine app is for in the new Popular Mechanics app. Clicking on an X on the map in this unit pops up what appear to be Twitter posts from people out fishing and offering tips about local providers. Touch, messaging, interactivity, and click-through to pay-off are all there.

Appropriate to the iPad, we are feeling our way to creative that figures out how the device is mobile but not a smart phone, large but not a desktop, video-enabled but not just TV. So far no one is daring to presume that the iPad is being used mainly in the home and possibly in concert with other media and in the company of family. How iPad spots might relate to the TV screen or be a prompt to invite others in the room to engage with an experience are questions waiting to be asked. Something new and interesting in interactive advertising is bound to happen here. You can almost touch it. 

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