With all the Flash vs. iPad, Adobe vs. Apple action out there, I thought I would explore how the iPad’s potential success might affect the interactive advertising world – where I spend most of my time.
Guesswork: Audience Impact
For my business, and to a larger extent, the interactive advertising community, the primary target for web experiences are desktop users. Most of our ad clients have invested enough in mobile web experiences to offer the “you need a desktop to view this site” type of solution. Flash still dominates many of our sites, not because it’s all we do, but because it has made sense for many reasons I can go into at another time.
We have been getting more requests for iPhone apps, which has added a new market for work, which has been great for vendors in the interactive ad space, but I don’t think this will play out the same way with the iPad. The iPhone is a great web browsing platform, but it really just added to the browsers out there rather than significantly replace any of the desktop browser audience in a serious way. With the possible iPad success, that changes: the iPad will start to replace those laptops, desktops, and netbooks that right now look and act just like any desktop browser to us. This is where we see the biggest changes to our work, and not having Flash support has some pretty big implications.
Aside from the kids sites and games sites that have been tossed around in the ring, there are a lot of web experiences that, up until now, could only be created in Flash. A quick look at the Sites of the Year over at FWA reveal sites like Get the Glass, Vodafone Future Vision, Audi R8, The Eco Zoo, We Choose the Moon, Philips Bodygroom, Elf Yourself, and countless others. These are the types of sites we use Flash for and that many of our ad clients request.
Did you catch that?
Up until now, the richer ad/brand experiences have gone something like:
- Friend says “check out cool site for FooBar”
- You go to site for FooBar, interact and hopefully enjoy
Now there will be the occasional download of plug-in, etc. but we can count on smooth sailing for at about 90% of users across most laptop/desktops. Now, on the iPad it will be:
- Friend says “check out cool site for FooBar”
- You go to site for Foobar (on your iPad)
- You click the link to download the FooBar app from App Store
- You Launch App for FooBar and interact and hopefully enjoy
It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but those extra two steps go a long way in making this particular brand experience a lot more work for the user, and potentially a bigger let down – a negative experience attributed to FooBar.
Gone is that easy experience of getting a site referral, or seeing a URL on a billboard and getting a fun (or not) interactive experience that you didn’t have to do more than type in a URL for. The effort was low so the pay-off seemed greater. With the iPad experience, the initial effort for the user is higher, so the pay-off has to be much better.
When the Flash plug-in was not the ubiquitous tool we have today, the prospect of requiring users to download a plug-in was something that was scary for us and our clients – we don’t want the user to jump through installation hoops for a few minutes of branded game-playing. Now we don’t worry so much, because Flash is so prevalent. We take the pay-off for granted because the audience for our client’s site is not feeling any extra burden for that additional richness in their web experience.
Now we are back to square one, where some of our audience may have to download an app that may take some time to download. They may even forget they were downloading it, or, what I think is more likely, they may choose not to download it. For our clients to get to those users, they have to have apps with real pay-off, enough to convince users to download the app and keep that download on their iPad long enough to have that interactive brand experience. For sites like Get the Glass, an iPad variation could make sense and you could see that app experience holding its own in the world of the App Store because it’s primarily a game experience. But what about the Vodafone Future Vision site? That’s a great site to stumble on or get passed to you via email or IM, but would you sit and download potentially hundreds of megs and install the app for this cool presentation? I love the experience as a web site, but as an iPad app I’m not so sure it’s suited. The client would have to have an iPad-specific experience, or decide the iPad users don’t get the richer brand experience that we do on the laptops, desktops, and netbooks. And you can’t expect to Elf Yourself on an iPad without a camera.
Convincing the clients
Today, when we are contracted to design and build an interactive brand experience in Flash, convincing our ad clients that we need to invest in a non-Flash experience, or a mobile-web-specific experience is difficult because you want to spend your budget on the cool stuff, on the wow factor. Soon, we will need to convince the client that they need extra budget to develop a separate site for this very specific browser market, that isn’t really that huge (not for a while anyway).
Using Adobe’s upcoming tools, we could export the Flash experience to an iPhone/iPad app and get users to download and install it. But wouldn’t we want to take advantage of the iPad’s awesome touch-oriented experience? Convincing the client of that will be even more difficult. So in the end, the iPad audience get’s the short end of the user experience stick.
Brand experiences on the iPad
It is inevitable that early iPad users will suffer the “you need to be on a desktop or laptop to view this experience” type of road block. Until our clients see a need to develop specific brand experiences via iPad-tailored HTML sites or App Store apps, we won’t get a lot of extra budget to make experiences solely for the iPad, especially for iPad apps that have to have a much bigger pay-off for the user.
I had been thinking that the iPad’s saving grace may just be the looming, possible proliferation of PC tablets – that will certainly increase the touch-sensitive tablet user audience and give vendors like us an opportunity to develop more tablet-sensitive brand experiences. Then again, the other tablets out there will likely support Flash, so it may be we will have to get used to the less friendly brand experience the iPad seems to be pushing on us. Either way, there’s a new type of interactive ad/brand experience coming.