Attending an early morning session at the bustling AdTech conference and exhibition this week in Olympia I heard Theo Theodorou promoting the Apple iAd format.
His pitch was interesting and persuasive, full of data on how mobile apps generate far more engagement than online rich media or even (so he claimed) TV.
He started by saying that iPads were massively dominant in the world of tablet computers. And to prove this he asked how many people in the room had iPads. Everyone in the room, apart from me, put their hands up. Theo turned to me with a sad smile and admitted that iPad use wasn’t universal yet.
At that point I admitted that I did have a tablet, but that it was a Samsung Galaxy (bought because it fits nicely into my jacket pocket). And therein lies a moral or two, I think.
First of all, don’t assume that because almost all London media types have an iPad it means that everyone has one. While smart phone possession is on the way to becoming ubiquitous in the UK (although even that will take a few years yet), tablet possession is limited to a small minority: 7.5% of the adult population this autumn according to Kantar.
And second don’t assume that all tablets are iPads. While no doubt the iPad is dominant in the UK market with nearly 75% market share, the market is changing fast and Apple may well see a market share nearer 50% within the next year or two.
The marketplace for apps though is different. In the smart phone market, iOS is far less dominant and Android devices lead Apple strongly. That is reflected in app downloads with Ovum predicting that 2011 will see over 8 billion Android app downloads compared with 6 billion iOS app downloads. And that difference is only set to widen.
But back to Theo. His proposition was this. TV is a great medium for driving emotion, but it is a one way medium. Online is a two way medium, but poor at driving emotional story telling. But iPad apps take the best of both worlds being both emotionally engaging and two way.
Because of this, long form ads work well on the iPad – they show a 6% click through rate and indeed time spent on an iPad ad is on average 60 seconds compared with 9 seconds on a web based rich media ad. The examples Theo showed us, ads for a car and a camera, bore out the potential.
Those are powerful data to support using iPad apps (and I suppose apps on any tablet device) as an advertising vehicle. So why is it that tablet apps are so engaging?
Accurate targeting, said Theo. And because the ads are intuitive and fun. And because you can touch the ads.
I’m not convinced that accurate targeting would have such a massive effect although I am sure it has some. It probably does enhance click through rate (although those of us with long memories can remember the (brief) time that online ads had similar CTRs).
But I think perhaps it is the game like nature of the ads that generates that length of engagement. And that is of course helped by the fact that you can touch the screen, and also because you are holding the device in your hands so that it is physically closer to you.
So perhaps it isn’t surprising that game-like ads do work well on a tablet.
But creating good interaction is difficult, risky and expensive. And it is not going to be appropriate for every brand. So much digital advertising (especially as TV advertising isn’t going to disappear any day soon) will remain as long form video.
The question for Theo is, will video ads on a tablet drive engagement, or will advertisers who want to use this format be forced into using “advergaming”. If that is the case then the market for tablet advertising must surely be limited.