Digital magazines: where are all the interactive adverts?

There’s a distinct lack of exciting interactive adverts in today’s digital magazines

One of the things I’ve noticed recently, as I do more and more of my magazine reading on my iPad, is just how boring the adverts are. Looking at the reviews of digital versions of magazines such as Wired in the App Store you notice that one of the things many users complain about is the sheer number of adverts – strangely, you don’t see readers of the paper version moaning about this. Perhaps they’re complaining as much about the quality of the adverts as the quantity…

This current generation of adverts display a spectacular lack of imagination. Most are simply full page static ads. If you’re lucky rotating the iPad will reveal a slightly different version of the ad or the completion of a tag line. Some even have links to video clips, which are normally disconnected from the ad completely or play in a little box, but that’s about your lot.

Look at the example above for the BBC’s Christmas DVD lineup. It looks fine as a printed ad, which is obviously what it was designed for, but is that enough in this digital age? Given the incredibly rich library of media that you’d have to play with in an ad like that, why not include some of it? Tapping on Doctor Who could play a snippet of the theme tune, a video clip of the show, a snippet of dialogue… The Sherlock Holmes remake was great television but criminally overlooked by many people – why not use this as an excuse to expose them to one of the action scenes or some of the snappy dialogue?

A few more ideas…

It’s not difficult to come up with this stuff – here’s a couple more examples from the same magazine that could easily be improved with a dose of interactivity…

The Movado watch ad (above) is all about the stunning colours schemes that the watch is available in – although you wouldn’t know that unless you looked at the video link. Why not have the watch fade from one colour to another while you’re looking at the page? Better yet, why not make it into a real functioning watch that you can use as a desk clock? Give the user something to interact with or something that has a real use to them and they’re much more likely to take an interest in your product.

This Casio watch ad suffers from similar problems – information overload and zero interactivity. Rather than explain it’s many features in tiny text, demonstrate the features one by one or, better still, make the watch itself interactive and let the geeks in the audience try out a virtual version of it.

Imagine being able to to swipe or finger paint new outfits onto this model in the Gap advert. Or shake the phone to change the season and the clothes…

And those are just a few simple, easily achievable ideas. Why not try something more complex? A treasure hunt where the user is challenged to locate and click on several related clues/images elsewhere in the magazine to unlock the advert fully and gain access to a promo code or free trial? Advertisers love collecting user data – why not run an ad where the first 1000 readers to submit their details win a coupon, free download or whatever…?

What’s the problem?

So what is the problem? Is it that we’re in the early days of the industry and nobody is really trying yet? Is it because traditionally these ads are designed for print magazines and the designers don’t know how to think interactively? Could it be the tools that are used for the creation of the magazines don’t support the way the interactive designers are used to working ie. no Flash? As we’ve seen on the web, HTML5 does a fantastic job of substituting for Flash in many cases so this shouldn’t be a major factor. Is it budgets? Ad campaigns are notoriously expensive as it is and it certainly wouldn’t be too expensive to add the level of interactivity discussed above.

A challenge

So here’s a challenge: if you’re involved in putting together an ad for a digital version of a magazine, think interactively. Try and involve the reader and get them to engage with your product or service. If you want some ideas or to see what’s feasible, get in touch. I’d be delighted to help.

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