Tablets had record sales over Christmas but a report questions brands’ understanding of how to use them for effective marketing.
Post-Christmas sales figures suggest that December 2012 was the month when tablet devices became truly mainstream. Dixons Retail revealed that, in the week before Christmas, it sold tablets at a rate of five per second - a result that helped boost overall sales by 8 per cent year on year in the final quarter of the year. Mobile analytics company Flurry, meanwhile, calculates that over 8 million tablets worldwide were activated on Christmas Day alone.
With media consumption on tablets rising sharply in the wake of the festive season, it is surprising to see many brands still lagging behind in their tablet-specific marketing strategies. Only a fifth are using them as an essential business tool at the moment, but three-quarters say they ‘would consider’ advertising on them, according to a survey of Marketing Society members by newspaper trade marketing body Newsworks. Further to this, only 16 per cent of members say they have used tablets in their advertising work to date.
Marketers cite a lack of technical understanding about tablets and credible evidence that advertising on them works as issues. However, some brands are leading the way by working out how best to incorporate tablets into their wider marketing strategies.
Renault has developed a series of campaigns on tablet devices by placing adverts on the iPad or Android editions of popular newspapers and magazines (see case study). Matt Lamprell, its digital communications manager, explains that because tablet users are likely to engage with brand messaging in more depth than they would on other platforms, Renault’s ads for the device are content-rich and interactive.
“Tablets are one of the things people are never away from, whether they’re sat at home in front of the TV or out and about,” he says. “Tablets present an opportunity for us to put messaging in front of people in an environment where they are comfortable and receptive - perhaps in conjunction with TV advertising.”
However, Lamprell admits that there is still an element of “test and learn” to Renault’s various tablet campaigns, as it seeks to drive both sales and brand awareness through the relatively nascent advertising platform. “We need to make sure that the experience we serve the user once they reach our site is up to scratch,” he says. “With tablet and mobile you need to make it as easy as possible for customers to fill in forms but we also need to capture a minimum amount of data to make it worthwhile.”
In addition to the internal challenges facing brands, the Newsworks research shows that marketers’ decision to run adverts on tablets is swayed by their relationship with news brands and other owners of digital media. The survey shows that 92 per cent of Marketing Society members feel they need more information about how advertising works in tablet editions, with most stating that their information on the topic primarily comes from personal contacts rather than media owners.
Rufus Olins, chief executive of Newsworks, argues that media owners are likely to improve their engagement with potential tablet advertisers this year as they become more attuned to the revenue-generating opportunities of the platform. “Some newspapers only launched a tablet edition quite recently so it’s relatively early days for them too,” he says.
News brands are already reaching out to advertisers as Olins suggests. Late last year, DMG Media offered advertisers in the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday free selected advertising in the papers’ new tablet edition, Mail Plus. The initiative, designed to get brands interested in the new app’s potential, offers free static ads in Mail Plus to advertisers with ads in the print editions larger than 100cm. Charges are then made for interactive content, which could include tablet-specific functions such as 360-degree rotation on imagery for adverts about cars or hotel rooms, as well as interactive videos or games.
Meanwhile, Trinity Mirror is seeking to engage with both readers and advertisers through new tablet versions of its flagship national titles, the Daily Mirror and Daily Record. In early December, the group broke with the subscription-based model of most other news brands by offering the apps for free in a bid to attract as wide an audience as possible.
Trinity Mirror managing director of digital Chris Ellis says: “The app looks just like the print version but the key difference is in the touch. Significantly, this introduces a whole new level of engagement and interactivity that makes both the Mirror and Record truly relevant to the digital generation.”
Of course, advertisers respond to hard figures first and foremost, yet so far the evidence of strong readership communities on tablets is highly variable. Data collated by Newsworks in November shows that, while The Times iPad app has 132,845 active users and subscribers, The Guardian iPad app has only 19,499.
While The Times app launched more than a year before The Guardian’s, allowing it more time to build up a readership base, it’s also clear that certain types of news brands are more likely to attract a bigger tablet following than others. The Times went live with a paywall on its online site at around the same time it launched the app, so readers were more likely to migrate to a paid-for model.
Therefore, some advertisers are targeting specific news brands that have established a strong platform on tablets. This includes American Express, which joined with Rolex and Jaguar to become a commercial partner of popular news magazine The Week when it launched a tablet edition in 2011.
Lisa Gervis, vice-president of brand and customer experience at American Express, explains that tablet owners “very much reflect the American Express audience” - particularly as many of its card members use the devices regularly for banking. She says the brand has sought to develop advertising campaigns that suit different news brands and their audiences while maximising the capabilities of the device.
“Tablets offer a unique means to communicate to our audience, which fall somewhere between print media and online advertising,” she says. “We have created a range of ads depending on the level of interactivity available from the media owner - some can simply offer straightforward actions, whereas in other cases we were able to create interactive games to really bring the messaging to life.”
Olins believes that Christmas 2012 will prove to be a tipping point that will prompt more brands to engage in tablet advertising.
“Post-Christmas, the audience is reaching a critical mass that will persuade more brands to use the tablet as an advertising medium,” he says.
Indeed, demand for the devices soared last year as a host of new options at different price points came to market including the iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. Looking ahead, Forrester predicts that by 2016, 106 million people in the seven major western European countries will own a tablet and will increasingly use them for media consumption. Marketers must take tablets seriously if they want to tap into this trend.
Renault has been at the forefront of developing tablet-specific advertising strategies. Last year, the brand was one of the launch advertisers on the Virgin Media Wi-Fi service at London Underground stations. Renault ran tablet and mobile-specific adverts for several months to promote the launch.
The brand also worked with the Internet Advertising Bureau and Ipsos MediaCT to study consumer attitudes towards tablet advertising through a survey of 1,000 tablet owners. As part of the research, Renault and its agency Publicis created a series of adverts that were tested on the participants.
It found that 55 per cent of people feel tablets can offer a different form of advertising to any other media and that interactive ads with a video or gaming element are better received than static ads. However, 95 per cent of respondents also said it was important that tablet ads are unobtrusive.
Renault has sought to apply interactive elements in its own tablet campaigns. In 2011, the brand became the first advertiser to run the equivalent of a cover wrap in a tablet format when it agreed a partnership with tech magazine T3, published by Future.
When a user opened an issue of T3 on the iPad, a short Renault video would run which users could either bypass or tap for more information. Renault also embedded a three-minute video within the magazine itself.
Renault digital communications manager Matt Lamprell says it got “really good completion rates” in terms of the number of full views. “We also had the back cover so when readers reached the end of the magazine there was further Renault messaging.”
Lamprell argues that while there are often higher costs associated with tablet advertising, it is worth investing in quality content that is specific to the device. “You get a significantly better response from tablet users for creative that’s designed and built in HTML 5,” he says.