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IBM's Hilariously Awful Tablet Ad

If you're going to advertise on a tablet app, fit your message to the medium.

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According to industry analysts, it's only a matter of time before tablet sales exceed PC sales. Since more consumers and businesspeople are using tablets, advertisers and content providers are trying to figure out how to run ads that work well on these devices.

While I sympathize with the struggles to get it right, there are some tablet ads that are so terrible that they're unintentionally hilarious. For example, here's a video showing one of the IBM ads that run intermittently on the app for The Atlantic magazine:

What IBM has clearly done is compress an entire PowerPoint presentation onto a single page, with all the buzzwordsintact. Apparently, IBM marketing believes that somebody might actually slog through this collection of biz-blab and want to learn more.

I easily imagine the inbred, internally-focused meetings at IBM where the decision was made to run this ad. I have not the slightest doubt that the ads reflect IBM's corporate politics in a "hey, we have to be in the ad, too!" way.

To make matters worse, the timing of the display is executed poorly. While there is a "click-through" button (not really the right term for a tablet, but you know what I mean), the ad disappears after several seconds, so that in the unlikely event you were actually reading the ad, it would vanish before you got through the first paragraph.

Awful.  Simply awful.

Tablet advertising CAN be done effectively, though, as shown by ads that run on the satirical publication The Onion. Here's the current one:

Two things to note here.

First, the ad's message is very simple: a product you might want is available; the click through gets you to a purchase page. Second, the green progress meter at the top of the ad shows exactly how long the ad will run, without forcing you to do math in your head.

Even though there's no click-through button on the Onion-run ads, they don't seem very intrusive because they only run when you first access the app. Also, the display time is quite short--as befits the brevity of the message.

With this model in mind, how could IBM make a better tablet ad? First, they'd need to winnow down their message to one idea, one sentence, and one image, so that readers can understand at a glance what it's all about.

The landing page for the click-through would then get the reader involved in some way, perhaps with a simple question that, when answered, branches the reader to appropriate details, hopefully without all the off-putting jargon.

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IMAGE: seantoyer/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 28, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.
@Sales_Source




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