On tablets, ads could be entertainment too

June 10, 2010

One of the aspects that gets lost in discussions about the wonders of digital readers and tablets is how they might change the shape of  advertising.  Thankfully this morning a Time Inc. panel about tablets sparked a conversation about how ads could be built in new ways on digital devices — especially the iPad — and how publishers can benefit.

Sports Illustrated is thinking pretty deeply about these issues.  As one example it  previewed a very cool Gatorade.  The ad had traditional elements like video  and readers could choose different “branded”  Gatorade bottles.  For example by selecting the Michael Jordan bottle,  users could have the choice of viewing old clips of Jordan in action or pulling up nutritional information.  One could easily spend a lot time playing around with the ad.

As Sports Illustrated Editor Terry McDonell put it: “Advertising will become content.”

Sports Illustrated integrated some of its editorial content into the Gatorade ad,  in the example McDonell showed.  He thinks merging editorial with advertising will become more common on these devices for publishers in general.

Time Inc. is still trying to determine how to price advertising in its digital publications.  For example they kicked around the idea of a meter that would charge rates based on how long a viewer spent time with the ad.  One things that McDonell made clear is that initially Sports Illustrated is only creating six to eight ad positions  for the app.

McDonell revealed that in focus groups for the Sports Illustrated iPad app, people actually wanted to go back and play with the ad– something he had never seen before in decades of testing.

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