Close-Up: What will Apple's evolution mean for advertising?

The iPhone and the iPod both dramatically changed the ways in which brands could communicate with consumers. Will the iPad have a similar impact? Russell Davies and other industry figures give their verdict.

Let's start with the "nots". The iPad is not the most revolutionary device of the past 50 years. It's not the future of computing, it's not going to destroy Microsoft or Google or The New York Times or Sky. It's not going to save magazines. Or newspapers. Or television. It's not all that the hype predicted. But, then, nothing could have lived up to that.

Then let's do the "don't knows". Very few people have, so far, actually touched one. At the time of writing, we don't know how much it will be in the UK. We don't know all the technologies it will support, we don't know that much about the pricing and infrastructure of its associated services.

And as for "what we do know", the fact that it's not going to stay like this for very long only introduces more uncertainty. There will be a software update for this thing very soon - one that will reveal much more of its capabilities and take it even further away from being just a big iPhone.

All of which makes it a little tricky to predict what the iPad implies for the advertising, marketing and brands businesses. But, hey, that's why we're here. Let's dive in.

First of all, let's think about the iPad as a media channel and look at the context any advertising will be sitting in. The pre-launch hype was centred on its role as a content-deliverer and it certainly looks like a superb media device (to an extent that many are describing it as a consumption tool rather than a creative one). Many publishers are embracing the iPad as a way of distributing digital content and being able to charge for it - in the same way that iTunes allowed the record business to distribute digital files and still get paid. Though they're obviously wary of the power this gives Apple over their business, and they should be worrying about the atomising effect it has on their content.

Those publishers will presumably be hoping to take some advertisers with them and they might have a compelling offer to make - a print-like reading experience and intimacy with web-style metrics and interactive opportunities. The magazine designer Luke Hayman is certainly optimistic. He wrote this on the Pentagram blog: "The mean little conventions of online advertising - banner ads, pop-ups, and so forth - aren't popular with readers, with advertisers, and certainly not with designers. The iPad's a new medium that will create a whole range of opportunities. Once people start exploiting what it can do, we may see the kind of creative renaissance that will deliver the next George Lois or Lee Clow. People will start subscribing to certain i-mags just for the ads alone."

But it's not just in print-to-digital where there are opportunities. Many have greeted the iPad as the perfect "couch-top" device - the computer you'll have on your sofa while you're watching the telly. Two-screen viewing is already a significant phenomenon - one that broadcasters are thinking hard about. And the relative unobtrusiveness, living-room aesthetics and lack of irritating typing makes the iPad perfect in this arena. So advertisers might soon be able to build communications with the assumption that you've got access to the web right in front of you - with great video and audio capabilities and easy commerce built in.

I can imagine all sorts of content owners - publishers, record and movie companies - trailing their content in the ad breaks and aiming for a ton of instant downloads. Instant ROI. And just as we're likely to see more "enhanced broadcasting", canny advertisers will extend their stories from paid-for linear content into extra material on the iPad. All those "red button" ideas that don't quite work on the big TV screen may finally find an appropriate home.

All of which makes you wonder what audiences we'll be able to talk to in these new exciting ways. And this is where it gets really interesting; because Apple might have found a combination of price-point, aesthetics and functionality that turns a whole new group of people into regular digital users.

For all that hardcore technologists lament Apple's closed and proprietary approach to the iPad OS, it means there will be none of that tedious mucking about with drivers and installation and all that stuff that puts so many people off computing. Switch it on and it will start working, poke at it with your fingers and it will start doing stuff. Web-surfing, looking at pictures, listening to music, watching movies - these will quickly become easy for those who had no inclination to invest in one of those huge boxes with screens that you put in the spare room. Think about the way Nintendo took on PlayStation with the Wii and DS - the iPad is doing a similar thing to regular computers. Expect a lot of grannies to be getting iPads this Christmas - probably pre-loaded with videos of the grandkids. The idea that "digital" is a youth thing has always been a myth; it's going to be even more untrue as the iPad, and devices like it, become more commonplace.

But perhaps, in the end, the most interesting opportunity for brands is not in piggy-backing other media but in building direct relationships and channels based on apps and interaction. The iPad looks well suited to playful, casual interaction.

It's for gawping, playing, mucking about, and it's a visually rich, sensory environment. It's therefore fruitful territory for the stuff that brands like to make. Also, let's face it, it would be a great device for presenting creative work; whoever first pitches via iPads is a dead cert to win that one.

Which brings me to the questions you really want to ask. And the answer is "yes". You should buy one. And you should put it on expenses. It's for work.

THE DESIGNER'S VIEW - Michael Johnson

It's a little tricky to review the iPad without actually having one in my hands. But, assuming that ringing doorbell is FedEx or an Amazon parcel (not a review copy from Jobs and Ive), I'll try to do it, virtually.

From a product design perspective, it's clearly an extension of recent Apple themes. It shares the black and aluminium aesthetic that runs through Apple's entire product line. It's very thin - amazingly only 1mm thicker than an iPhone.

Size-wise, it initially disappoints (I'd hoped for something closer to A5), but to get an idea, fold your edition of Campaign in half, hold it upright and imagine that you'd lopped another 30mm off the bottom.

The weight of it is great. I'm writing this on a 15-inch laptop, weighing almost 2.5kg - the iPad will only weigh just over a quarter of that. If you want to cycle and run (or amble) to work, or are always dragging hefty laptops to meetings and airports, it could be a genuine game-changer. And it'll save on those physio sessions for broken shoulders.

If your idea of fun on a long flight is to boot up Photoshop and indulge in a bit of high-end retouching, then you'll be disappointed, but you'd imagine that Adobe will be thinking hard about "CS4 lite" very soon.

Our Californian friends have been mainly repurposing iPhone software for this new "third-way" type of product (ie. not phone, not laptop, but somewhere in between). Put six iPhones together and you're close to the size of the actual screen - you can see why the world's suppliers of apps and games are genuinely excited. We've all done that irritating up-and-down-sizing of a website on a phone - all of that will be over if it's as fast and as net-friendly as it seems in all the demos.

The family friendly apps such as photos, calendars and video have been redesigned for the bigger screen, but this isn't just a home toy - the increasingly ubiquitous Keynote software has been rejigged and made available at a very low price. You could do that next conference defiantly "hand-luggage only". Forget the extra iPods and hardbacks, just whack the music on this, download some Malcolm Gladwell e-books and order the room service.

My only reservation? Will I really be able to write on that keyboard? I hope so. But I'll need a real one in my hands to really test that out, obviously. Purely for research, you understand.

- Michael Johnson is a creative director at Johnson Banks and an ex-design president of D&AD.

THE TECHNOLOGIST'S VIEW - Jean-Paul Edwards

So the fabled iPad is upon us. The front cover of The Economist this week shows "The Book of Jobs" and quips about generating the most excitement about a tablet since the Ten Commandments.

Let us get one thing straight - it is not going to change anything overnight. Like the first iPod and the first iPhone, it will be a niche device that sells in the hundreds of thousands of units in its first year. The iPad's predecessors were significant not because they sold millions of units straight away but in that they reinvented models, changed perceptions and opened up markets. So how might it reinvent, change and open up?

Advertisers and media owners are already investing heavily in free and paid-for apps, and this device will further add to the audience that can pay for or be reached by them. Special iPad editions may be able to generate incremental income, not based so much on new formats but ease of purchase. Apple has the payment details of millions of people, for them a subscription or micropayment is only a password away, smoothing the path to that all-important first buy. In addition, some publishers can target a new international audience, a title such as Campaign can generate significant revenues overseas through an iPad app.

The big screen and touchy-feely interface is a new platform for creativity. IPhone owners have already discovered the joys of touchscreen games and pinching web pages. Much of the past ten years of digital has been about adequately replicating the analogue experience. We are now starting to see new forms of content that can only exist in digital. We are just beginning to explore the possibilities of non-linear content. The mass adoption of multi-touch-connected devices will accelerate the process.

The iPad won't save the publishing industry single-handedly, but it is the symbol of things to come; ever more complex technology delivering ever simpler and more intuitive experiences, monetisation through convenience not control and digital technology touching ever more aspects of our lives. The next couple of years will tell us how prophetic this device really is.

- Jean-Paul Edwards is the executive director, futures at Manning Gottlieb OMD.

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