Editorial: Dear Advertisers, Be Gentle With The iPad Platform
There has been quite a bit of speculation around the web regarding how innovative advertisers can be with the upcoming iPad platform. From rich media like video and audio, to interactive experiences where the user controls the advertisement, ad companies far and wide are planning on taking full advantage of the iPad's functionality to get their client's message out to the masses. In fact, some of the biggest names in business are already spending serious money on iPad specific marketing campaigns in an effort to cash in on the rush of new users in the coming weeks.
It is no secret that the average iPad user is considered the holy grail of demographics when it comes to such metrics by marketing firms. iPad users are by and large made up of people who are willing to lay down their hard-earned disposable income for the latest and greatest in technology and other consumer goods. In layman's terms, iPad users spend money and marketers want those eyeballs looking at their client's products.
Advertising as a means of supporting websites and online organizations is becoming more and more difficult these days. Just recently arstechnica, a well-known and respected Conde Naste web property, made a bold attempt to educate their readers about how the use of ad-blocking software could very well destroy arstechnica all together. As you can imagine from such a tech-savvy audience, the reaction was mixed with a large majority simply not caring about ads and refusing to whitelist arstechnica or any other site to aid in generating ad revenues for the websites they visit.
The deteriorating revenues from advertisements from PC/Mac users are precisely why marketing firms are salivating over the iPad as a platform. The default Safari browser does not support plug-ins such as Ad-Block Plus on Firefox, which essentially removes any and all ad content from web pages. This means that an iPad user does not have the ability to scrape such code from websites ensuring that users see all ads that appear on the pages they view. So now marketers are guaranteed ad views across the iPad platform when it comes to web browsing.
The next area that interests advertising firms and content owners greatly is the ability to create dedicated applications for their content. There have been some very interesting demonstrations by content providers, such as the recently revealed Wired application, that shows us just the beginnings of how an e-magazine can look on the iPad and other tablet devices. By placing advertisements within their dedicated applications, content owners are ensured that users are going to see their ads at all times.
These two examples of how the iPad is going to force users to view more ads than on their desktop and notebook computers is the crux of this editorial, and where the problem begins if marketers get their way. Advertisers now have the ability to push ads to iPad users in ways that the regular computer has almost never allowed. Websites are now able to detect user agents and switch their content to platform specific output. Such an ability is great for content providers, and very useful if used appropriately, but now webmasters have the ability to push more ads onto those that cannot block them in an effort to make up lost ad revenues on the regular computer platform.
Imagine an iPad version of your favorite world news website that had twice as many ads on it that you could do nothing about. Would you move on to another news website? You could, but the danger is that all content providers will catch onto tricks like this soon and before we know it the iPad platform will become the the iAd platform where marketers are shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to ad impressions.
Now to be honest, this piece is all very doom and gloom and is only trying to highlight what could happen, not necessarily what will happen in the future to iPad users. Between web pages designed for the iPad to our favorite e-zines which are working on their own dedicated applications for which the end-user will have no control over, the potential for spam-like ad presentation is incredibly high for the iPad user base.
What we can hope for is that Apple and most web content providers take a unified stand against serving too much ad content per page and within reader-type applications specifically designed for the iPad. We all know AT&T can't handle anymore unnecessary traffic on their 3G network as things are now with just the iPhone. It goes without saying there is at least one big player in AT&T who stands to gain by pushing for a minimalist approach to advertising to iPad users.
The online browsing experience and e-reader apps for magazines on the iPad are a huge reason it will, or will not, be a popular device. Should marketers get their way, both of these means by which we all hope to embrace the iPad could be compromised leaving the experience less than something that everyone, including Apple, hoped for. Time will tell...