Thursday, June 24, 2010

The iPad: New Day Or False Dawn?

In terms of technology, 2010 has undoubtedly been the year of the iPad.
It has been hailed by many as being the future of everything from computing to publishing, whilst, as with the iPhone, publishers & advertisers alike have pounced on the new device, launching apps for their products and services.

But will the iPad live up to its hype, and should brands & publishers be falling over themselves in the way that they are?
As with most things, the answer is a mixture of yes & no.

Advertising Nirvana?
“Well, we’ve got a lot of free apps — we like that, users like that…What some (developers) are starting to do is put mobile ads in their apps… and most of this advertising sucks.” -Steve Jobs, April 2010

So what does all of this mean for advertisers?

Well, as already discussed, at present the iPad is very much a niche device, but one which punches above its weight in terms of the desirability of that audience and the publicity it generates. And the audience it attracts certainly seems keen to test everything that the iPad has to offer, with over 1 million apps being downloaded on its first day of release.

As a portable device, but one with a browsing experience far beyond that of even the best mobile phones, the iPad opens up new ways for brands to connect with consumers. Targeting content and experiences based on location and demographics, but with rich media experiences, means that brands could create deeper and more durable interactions with consumers.

However, the app rush also exposes two potential issues for brands. Firstly, the fact that the iPad is definitely much more than simply an oversized iPhone means that you can’t simply port your old iPhone app across, at least not if you want it to provide a high-end experience. And, just as the iPhone’s app library is now full to bursting, so a similar rush to develop iPad apps could mean that it becomes very hard to stand out from the crowd.

With more things than ever clamouring for consumers’ attention, any brand app or experience will have to be exceptional to really break through.

Don’t Believe The Hype?
What then is the final reckoning for the iPad?

Whilst it has generated enormous publicity it is still a niche product, and likely to remain so in the near to mid-term future. But by, once again, creating a new sector, Apple is likely to spark a wave of competition that should drive costs down and specs up.

Outtake: Brands shouldn’t simply throw money at tablet apps, but should definitely be thinking about how their audiences are using them, if at all, and how they could fit into that usage.

The continuing battle between closed environments and open platforms will continue, with no winner obvious at the moment. Whilst it would be stupid to ignore Apple’s latest uber-gadget, it would be a very brave exec that bet everything on one or the other.

Outtake: In the mobile wars, all the major operating systems have announced a common app language. Bar Apple. Investing in iPad apps is certainly not a bad idea, but be prepared to have to recreate it for other systems as they come along.

Tablets start to show us what the future of content consumption might look like. At present however too many magazine/newspaper/book apps simply recreate the printed page in a digital format, whilst the revenues likely to be generated won’t plug the massive defecits saddling so many publishing companies.

Outtake: Forward thinking brands will be working with publishers to re-imagine the world of publishing. Just as Time Warner & Toyota’s Mine showed how printed magazines might evolve, so there are opportunities to do the same on tablets.

Advertisers will want to test the capabilities of the iPad, and use it to create more immersive experiences for consumers. But the challenge will be to stand out and, as always, it will come down to creative, rather than technical details.

Outtake: Just because you can do something on the iPad, doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself why anyone should care about what you plan to do, and keep asking until you have an answer. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, It’s the creative, stupid.

And what about us, will we all be rushing out to buy an iPad? Well, I’m no Apple fanboy, but as the owner of a Macbook, iPod and iPhone I’m clearly not immune to their wiles either.

But for all of that, I’m going to follow the advice of British satirist Charlie Brooker, and wait till it’s cheaper and lighter, and in the meantime I’ll continue to stare enviously at my friends who have bought what Brooker describes as the world’s most expensive rectangle.

The author is CiarĂ¡n Norris, Head of Social Marketing, Mindshare

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who cares if it is Good or Great… ?

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to sit in a training course in Ogilvy Singapore conducted by then Global Creative Director Neil French. He was trying to educate a bunch of suits on what Great Advertising is – not just good…but GREAT. His method was interesting. He showed a reel of Award Winning TVC’s from previous years award shows. So all were winners, and one could argue were already Great. He then instructed us to vote on a 10 point scale. Of course after the first few ads had been played – and we’d all given those spots a 7 or an 8 (pretty good) - he told us we could only use the numbers under 5 or a 9 or 10. So they were either great. Or they weren’t.

Given Neil’s personality, use of profanity and general fear that he instilled in most junior suits it was quite a memorable way of forcing you to question whether something is GREAT – or just kind of OK. Most of us were comfortable with 6’s 7’s or 8’s.

But are we setting our standards high enough? Given the number of average ads on TV , let alone great ones maybe our standards aren’t high enough.

Now I am in the world of media I know we aren’t striving for GREAT.

I have heard too many times the phrase “at least they are doing something…” Usually in the context of new media. Or Search. Or Social Media activity. The fact that a client is doing something is seen as good – as doing something is seen as better than doing nothing.

Now call me old fashioned – but I tend to disagree. It’s a bit like giving a ten year old a violin and asking them to play something. Any sound they make is better than nothing ?? No it’s not. Silence would be better than hearing a sound that resembles fingers on a black board.

Getting a client to ‘do’ Search or Social just so they’ve ticked a box is responsible for users seeing crap on their Facebook pages or spending money on paid ads when their organic rankings are already going to get them the visibility they crave.

The difference between Great Search or great Social – or Great Media in general is huge – in terms of value, impact, relevance and engagement. But why do we settle for good… or even encourage poor just to get a client into a new medium?

Maybe we need more Neil French’s in our side of the industry – bullying and cajoling media teams as well as clients into a more binary view of our business – make it great or keep your money in your pocket!

At Maxus we have banned the expression “at least they are doing something…” or else my ten year old will visit with her violin.

As to an example of great work - I think what Dell is doing (not our client) with their Direct2Dell initiative has turned around a very closed and combative organisation who had failed to embrace the blogging community into a very open and collaborative organisation... Some brilliant work for Axe in Japan (not our client) in the mobile application space is another example of not just doing something in the mobile marketing space - just to give it a go - but doing something that really uses the potential of the medium, a real insight - Japanese guys use their mobiles as an alarm clock - and integrates the brand perfectly into the medium.

The author is Neil Stewart, CEO for Maxus in Asia Pacific.