Guest Column: Best Practices for Advertising on Tablets
On April 3, 2010, the publishing ecosystem was changed forever. For magazines, the launch of the iPad signaled the exciting new era of interactive, innovative publications and new revenue opportunities. For agencies and advertisers, the launch of the iPad meant promise but also radical changes. This new medium certainly offered creatives the opportunity to enhance print ads with rich media, extended content and interactivity. It also opened the door for creatives to develop completely new kinds of engagement based on the functionality offered by tablets. But along with the good news heralded by the emergence of the tablet as a viable publishing platform came the bad and the really, really ugly!
When the iPad launched, the magazines that launched with the platform included relatively few advertisements. Initially, there was little correlation between the ads booked in the print editions and the ads included with the tablet editions. (Most of the early ads on tablets were specially designed for tablets and tremendously enhanced; these ads were typically a separate booking and single-sponsor.) However, as time passed, new tablets came to market and the demand for mobile computing increased dramatically. Digitimes predicts that tablet shipments for 2012 will grow by 60 percent (others predict as high as 90 percent), and as the market share for tablets increases, the demand to advertise in magazine tablet editions increases as well.
Some interesting figures about magazines on tablets and advertising come from media intelligence firm Kantar Media:
• Of the 150 magazines Kantar tracks, 110 now have tablet editions.
• Of those 110 tablet editions, 45 simply replicate the content of the print magazine on the tablet.
• The other 65 are now offering some kind of exclusive content on the tablet.
• 90 percent of the advertisers in the 110 print editions that have tablet editions advertise in both the print and tablet editions.
• Tablet ad impressions grew by 771 percent last year.
• However, approximately 50 percent of tablet ads are print replicas: They have no enhancements and are limited to the portrait, or vertical, orientation only.
But this is all changing. As magazines shift from print replicas to editions that are enhanced with additional content, rich media and interactivity, the ads that appear in those magazines tend to mirror that level of interactivity.
The Bad and the Ugly …
If we look at market trends alone, the picture for advertising on tablets seems rosy! So what’s the BAD? And what’s the UGLY?
The answer is in the tablet-related disruption of the advertising production workflow. Ads for tablets are, for the most part, produced by the same staff that produces print advertising. But for the new format, new layers of content and rich media need to be produced and integrated. New tools are required, and new workflows emerge. Sure, print portals can still be employed when tablet ads are straight-from-print. But what happens when ads are enhanced?
Today there is no “compiled format” like a PDF that can be used to deliver a final enhanced tablet ad to publishers. Print portals cannot be employed. And, in fact, publishers have had to assign their production staff to assemble the pieces of an ad before it can be placed in the digital magazine and before the magazine app can be finalized. There is no standard mechanism for the agency to communicate with the publisher about how the pieces of the enhanced ad should be re-assembled on the publisher side. And proofing remains ad hoc and problematic. UGLY!
In addition there is the very basic issue of how publishers are developing ad specs. A recent IDEAlliance survey found that each publisher developed their own ad specs and that specs across publishers for ads on the same device varied widely. Often a publisher’s different magazine titles had different ad specs, in a different format, using different nomenclature!
IDEAlliance Digital Ad Lab: A Call to Action
The chaotic state of the tablet advertising supply chain became a “Call to Action” for IDEAlliance. Challenged by its eMedia21 Council to find solutions, IDEAlliance relaunched its Digital Ad Lab Initiative with a clear mission to develop best practices and specifications that can result in efficiencies for the tablet advertising supply chain. Kin wah Lam, director of digital development at Time Inc., is the chairman for this effort.
According to David Steinhardt, president and CEO of IDEAlliance, “Perhaps the most telling symptom of the chaos we are experiencing across the tablet advertising supply chain is the fact that we don’t even have a standard nomenclature to describe the specifications for placing an advertisement in a tablet magazine edition. Without a tablet advertising lingua franca that agencies and publishers both use to clearly communicate requirements, ad hoc efficiencies are the best we can ever accomplish.”
Standard Tablet Ad Types
A simple-but-necessary starting point is to standardize vocabulary for specifying ad types for tablet magazine editions. Through a collaborative effort between IDEAlliance and MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, a standard vocabulary for tablet ad types has been established. If you aren’t yet using these terms, you should adopt them as soon as you can.
Two types of tablet ads are produced directly from the print ad:
SFP (Straight From Print): Advertising content where the page on the screen looks exactly like (or is a replica of) the print page, with no interactive enhancements except for the active links.
SFPplus (Straight From Print Enhanced): Advertising content where the page on the screen looks exactly like the print page with some interactive enhancements (beyond activation of links).
A second class of tablet ads is made up of ads developed specifically for the tablet where the ad will be displayed. The two types are:
DFT (Designed For Tablet): Advertising content with no interactive enhancements except for the active links, where the page on the screen has been re-designed specifically for reading on the tablet and is meant to be displayed at 100 percent (that is, there is no need to tap and zoom).
EFT (Enhanced For Tablet): Advertising content where enhancements and bonus content has been added to DFT content to more fully utilize the tablet medium (e.g., hotspots, photo slide shows, video, audio, in-app browser).
Best Practices Initiative
Having a standard set of terms to describe the ad type for tablet publishing is the first of a series of best practices being developed by Digital Ad Lab. The Best Practices work began with a meeting of publishers followed by a meeting of agencies. Each group came up with a hit list of the most serious bottlenecks they are encountering in producing ads for tablet editions. The lists were then combined and prioritized.
Some items at the top of the target Best Practices list include:
•Develop a standard production nomenclature that can be used in developing ad specifications and in communication between agencies and publishers.
•Develop a standard template that publishers can use for tablet ad specification.
•Establish a Best Practice for the placement and handling of active URLs in tablet ads.
•Recommend the PDF profile and layer flattening for “Straight-from-Print” tablet ads to avoid the tiling problems that can occur when print ads are repurposed to the tablet.
•Identify factors that preclude print ads from being rendered effectively on tablets.
According to Sal Conte, vice president of agency management services for the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), “We at the 4A’s believe it is critical for agencies to be involved in the effort to develop best practices and look forward to working with IDEAlliance on this effort.”
September Release Date
The work to develop both a standard production nomenclature along with a set of best practices for the production
of tablet ads will continue over the summer. The best practices will be a major focus of the annual IDEAlliance Spectrum Conference this fall in Phoenix. The best practices will be published and freely available on the Digital Ad Lab website (digital-ad-lab.org) following the conference. PE