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Marketing in the iPad Age

By Oren Michels

Mobility has boomed so much lately that it is easy to forget how young this industry still is. Every great consumer uptake is teaching us more about its long-term outlook, and the implications just get more exciting.

For marketers and retailers, the Apple iPad is making them better than ever.

The explosion of portable devices and wireless networks show us that mobility is not just about phones and short text messages.

Mobility is about presence: presence of our data and media whenever we want it, and presence of ourselves to our contacts, for all kinds of connection. It is about access to all kinds of data, images and voices from anywhere.

Long term, that means, mobility is the dominant form – fixed access will be seen as the limiting, lesser business.

Deeper engagement
The entry of the iPhone into the workplace and the growth of BlackBerry devices in the management of personal life have broken down the work/home barrier. This is important not just for the kind of messages we send, or how we run networks – it manages for how we organize our lives and work.

Into this mix, you can now throw the effect of the iPad, a runaway hit in just a few months of life.

For the iPad, and soon-to-come offerings from other computer makers, add to the revolutions in presence and context equally important changes in design and interaction.

Marketers and retailers should be delighted. The immersive nature of the iPad, from its elegant look and touch-screen interactions, to the brilliant graphics and abundance of easily accessed media choices, offers a range of possible consumer touch-points.

Even in these early days, successful campaigns are recording longer and deeper engagements than they are used to on the desktop Web.

Compared to traditional search-dominated mobile ads, it is a whole new world – with a prospect of longer and deeper messaging, and all sorts of calls to action.

These could be based not only on location, but also on group formation and social media, games and contests, interaction with other media in the device, or requests for media delivered to the device or elsewhere.

Constant connectivity
The longer battery life and constant connectivity of the iPad are a big change from traditional mobile, too.

Continuous connectivity is already challenging network designers in areas of user management and security.

These challenges are, let us remember, a byproduct of runaway success – that means they will likely be solved fairly soon, since they are a source of growth.

For marketers, though, the constant connectivity means opportunities to update information, or integrate a message through the pace of the user’s day, so she gets what she needs anytime, anywhere.

The very thing that challenges the carriers – an ecosystem of thousands of apps, on all day and accessed from everywhere – means more possibilities for interaction with a highly-targeted customer base.

The first marketing successes on the iPad show awareness of these changes.

Like the devices themselves, the messages show a comfort in moving from print to video to gallery images, often mixing the two inside a single frame to better illustrate a product’s features.

The video narratives are often slightly longer and better looking than many of their Web counterparts, and – surprise! – people spend more time with these elegant creations.

Tablet cure
We are probably not heading back to the 60-second spot, but there will be better and deeper messaging.

Leading up to that moment of engagement, marketers will create entirely new ecosystems of creation to prosper in this world.

The different messaging will require new talents in creative and technical, and likely new alliances among the content producers. Some of these will be long-lasting, others opportunistic for the duration of a campaign, even a short-term service.

At some times they may be more like publishers themselves, compared with the past. At others, they will employ technologists, from data miners and statisticians to Web 2.0 social software writers, to build new kinds of creative studios.

For those still thinking of the iPad in terms of another place to put banner ads, this all may seem far-fetched. But make no mistake: the time of big tablets – a time of immersive, ever-present messages – is here.

Oren Michels is founder/CEO of Mashery, San Francisco. Reach him at [email protected].