According to IDC, the fastest growth in ad spend will come not from mobiles but from tablets.

There are various reasons for this:

  • The size of the screen means you can do more with the ad.
  • The products you’re advertising are going to look better on a tablet.
  • Most importantly, more people click on a tablet ad.
  • Tablet sales are predicted to hit 172.4m units in 2013 (IDC) and 655 million units in 2016 (Gartner).

Tablets and mobiles appear to be used very differently. The IAB describes a smartphone as a ‘mission-critical device for life’ (their phrase, not mine), by which they mean it’s the one thing you can’t leave home without.

The same research calls a tablet an ‘entertainment device’. ABI research show how differently each device is used in the home: smartphones are much more used for looking up information ‘on the go’; tablets are more used for work, online shopping, reading print media, and watching TV or video.

Both are about equal for social networking and checking emails.

This is all really useful insight for advertisers deciding where to spend budget. It’s also great news for media owners.

There are clear signs that tablets are increasing the download of digital editions of ‘traditional’ media such as newspapers and magazines, and ads that can encourage people to interact with and buy directly from ads shown on the media site will raise the value of digital advertising both for the media owner and the advertiser.

No longer are apps the domain of the young, either. The BBC has released a ‘play along’ app to accompany the series Antiques Roadshow (named by The Guardian as one of the best apps last week).

Marketing Week reported in December that travel company The Travel Department is actively using tablets to reach an audience of over-50s.

Tablets could really transform our view of advertising on mobile devices. But there’s still a tendency to add them on as an afterthought to a mobile ad campaign, and to treat them like big smartphones (which, let’s be honest, themselves often get forgotten in the ad budget).

And while the OS might be the same, the way tablets are used by consumers is different to smartphones. That matters to an advertiser.

Some things to think about if you’re creating an ad for a tablet:

  • Have separate objectives and measurement criteria for tablet ads. And a separate budget.
  • iOS or Android? The answer, of course, is both. While iOS still leads the market at 53.8% share in 2012, Android has a very respectable 42.7%. Both are predicted by IDC to grow at more than 20% each year. Windows is predicted to hit 10% share by 2016, but iOS and Android will still lead by a country mile
  • Be interactive. Consumers respond better to interactive ads on tablets than to static ads, according to the IAB, and they stay on the page 31 per cent longer. Visa’s ‘Visa Signature’ ad is a great example of using interactivity within an ad, encouraging the viewer to experience new things with Visa.
  • If your ad is to appear inside a publisher’s app, there is a real opportunity to create something special. It needn’t cost the earth, either, particularly if your brand already has video or other assets such as a 3D product render
  • Think commerce. Consumers are more likely to buy from tablets, so your ads should have a clear call to action and the ability to buy or act directly from the ad.
  • Make sure the website experience lives up to the ad!
  • Be creative. There’s so much more scope on a tablet for video and other rich media than on a smartphone, simply because of the size of the screen and ease of use for consumers. Have a look at the ad by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for a good example of what’s possible.