If you’re like most people, chances are only .1 percent that you’ve ever clicked on a banner ad. And while that number is pitifully low, it might even misrepresent whatever enthusiasm exists. I know in my case the only time I open an online ad is by accident. Who needs them when there’s Google, YouTube and Twitter search?
The reason, of course, is that most online ads suck. They interrupt us, pop up and take over our screens, or delay our getting to the content we actually seek. Plus in most cases the lack of an engaging concept of any kind sends us looking for that little “x” which we’re practically programmed to discover within a nanosecond at most.
But change may be on its way. Both Apple with its iAds, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau with its effort to develop new standards, are acutely aware that it’s been a mistake to leave OLA in the hands of the quants instead of the creatives.
Recently I sat through an impressive presentation on iAds by Apple’s Scott Witt. If you’ve seen an iAd, you may not be an instant convert to Apple’s belief that it can inspire advertising people actually love, but at least you’re leaning a little toward the side of optimism. The good ones are absorbing, entertaining and informative.
(If you haven’t seen or experienced an iAd, download the app Tiptitude and open it; it usually displays the Nissan Leaf iAd at the bottom. You can tell an iAd from a regular banner because it identifies itself with the iAd label in the lower right hand side of the launch banner. Then click. You’ll experience something pretty cool. If you get the AT&T ad, just keep trying. The latter has some utility but it’s not as compelling as the Leaf iAd.)
Anyway, Apple is hoping that iAds deliver a quantum leap in advertising story telling as they have the potential to combine the cinematic beauty of great TV advertising (visceral imagery, animation, special effects), the interactive nature of the web (games, choices, navigation), the sharing and involvement of social media, and the tactile (digitally speaking) sensation of turning pages.
The Leaf execution for example has some brilliant film, interactive presentations of the car’s features, tools for comparison on mileage and operating costs, and more. In fact, it’s closer to an app than an ad. Same can be said for early Nike and Dove executions.
This is promising stuff. It acknowledges the need for digital advertising to be more creative and it encourages marketers to make utility and content first, sales pitches second.
True, iAds will call for a new kind of creative thinking (story telling + technology + user experience) but Apple is there to help (or control, depending on your point of view), acting as creative directors and gatekeepers for any initial iAd concepts. The reason, according to Witt, is that if Apple puts its name on something it wants to guarantee users the Apple standards they’ve come to expect. Apple also justifies its control with the argument that since iAds use all the capabilities of the iPhone OS who knows better than the guys who created it. That may or may not be the case, but if you want to get on the platform those are the rules.
In some cases Apple’s God-like role may be a bit too much for advertisers and agencies to take — I know of some brands that have opted out when Apple wouldn’t let them do what they believed was necessary to be effective. On the other hand, if a digital ad is only as good as the number of people who click on it and Apple’s reputation with users can increase engagement, then maybe submitting to the company’s tightly clenched security measures is worth it.
What will it take for iAds to really succeed? A lot. Brands have to sign up and fork over some serious money — $1 million to $10 million before production. App developers have to sell space on their applications, though with 60 percent of the revenue coming their way there’s a decent incentive. Users have to believe that all iAds are worth clicking on. And finally, advertisers have to see results.
Nevertheless, I’m hoping Apple’s efforts influence the way all advertising is done and that as iAds show us what’s possible with paid digital ads we’ll see online ads become more experiential, offer genuine utility, and even turn into miniature apps themselves.
Up next, part two of this topic: some thoughts on what the Interactive Advertising Bureau is doing in its quest for new standards.
In the meantime, your thoughts? Have you seen iAds in action? Does Apple’s name alone make you want to click?