5 best practices for app-vertising by Conde Nast – and what this means for us

Conde Nast obviously believes in the potential of the iPad, and they’re on a mission to convert others… especially advertisers.

One way to do that is to ensure that ads on the iPad work. And one way to increase the chances of an iPad or “app-vert” working is to do some research and find out what makes a successful ad on the iPad.

And that’s exactly what Conde Nast did; 100 hours of one-on-one interviews and 5,000 in-app surveys across its GQ, Glamour, Vanity Fair and Wired apps.

Without further adieu, the 5 best practices for app-vertising according to Conde Nast are:

  • Take advantage of functionality
  • Provide clear instructions on how users should engage with the app (or ad)
  • Supply additional information but avoid repurposing creative assets used for other media
  • Remember to tell a story
  • Lead users “down the purchase funnel”

Now, judging from the 5 points above, I’m not sure if Conde Nast meant for the respondents to provide feedback on advertising in publisher apps (eg ads in the Wired app), or branded apps themselves (eg ads created by an advertiser to provide some sort of value added functionality to their customers).

Certainly, when you read the entire article you get the sense that the expectation (or promotion) is that app-verts should have more depth and layers than traditional digital display advertising on a website. That might be quite an obvious expectation, you might think, but its not really. It has slightly different connotations when we’re talking about iPads… because as much as publishers and advertisers alike understand the proposition that it’s an “application on a tablet”, there is probably very little distinction between how an “app in an iPad” and “an app on a browser” is technically, creatively, functionally and substantively different.

But this is not and should not be a surprise. The app-vert market is still very much in its infancy and everyone’s experimenting. Heck, we’re still experimenting with digital/online advertising as it is, after something like a decade… and guess what? We still call it “new media advertising”. So the app-verts have some way to go yet, but my feeling is that its path will be expedited by the lessons we’ve learn and will apply from “traditional” digital advertising.

Currently, most iPad ads (that I know of anyway) are “live-ins” ie they’re being built as part of the app itself. The ability to click away from a publisher’s app to the advertiser’s portal is there, but if this only leads the user to the advertiser’s website (optimised for iPad even…), then it certainly limits the appeal and is perhaps counter-productive to the benefits of the platform (iPad) itself.

So that leaves us with 2 possible alternatives:

  • Build a fully functional, multi-layered app-vert that lives within the host publisher’s app. Think about how this app-vert can complement or extend the value, content or functional proposition of the host app itself, so that it offers the user an exciting way to interact with app-vert in the context of the environment they’re in. This way, you avoid alienating the original purpose of user using the host app and you’ve also provided value by leveraging the platform’s benefits for additional functionality
  • Build a branded app which the app-vert will link to, so that user goes from an app-to-app environment. If you’re dismantling this experience, then in reality the platform (iPad) is only being used as a reach medium, when it should reall be used as an enabler for richer and more fulfilling experience.

When you consider these 2 alternatives along with the platform and Conde Nast’s research, you get to the conclusion (hopefully) that advertising on iPads or apps shouldn’t just be a “be there cause it’s cool” or “functionality just cause we can” medium.

There is a very real expectation from the user that “app-verts” are defined by the “application” bit rather than just the “advertising” bit… that slapping a cool-moving-picture-with-buttons does not an app make… and we can only expect that in due time, as app-vertising proves its worth as a useful, valid and effective method of advertising rather than just being another reach medium… then resource and innovation will follow suit and manifest itself in the form of execution.

But it’s a chicken and egg situation… in order for its worth to be proven, one needs to find enough advertisers who have the foresight, vision and guts to embrace a completely new platform. The great thing for New Zealand is that we’ve already started. We’ve already got publishers and advertisers with their toe in the water. Now we just need to learn to swim.

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