Why Apple iPad Could Be a Game Changer

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The Apple iPad is a small sliver of screen that's filled with potential. It's been described as an e-reader extraordinaire, the perfect entertainment hub, and the missing link between smartphones and laptops. I thought it looked pretty sweet. But I still had questions.

Who is supposed to buy the iPad, anyway? What will it offer customers that our smartphones and Kindles can't? And what lucrative opportunities does it offer advertisers and media companies like magazines, newspapers and other websites? To find answers, I spoke with Lincoln Bjorkman, executive vice president and executive creative director of the New York region of Publicis' Digitas, a digital marketing agency. Here is our exchange:

1) The iPad looks awesome, but I doubt I'll buy one. Who will?

Affluentials. Affluent kids who just can't get enough social communication or media interaction and content, and affluent kids who to mix their educational needs and requirements with the aforementioned fun stuff. Also, affluent travelers. Business people who want connectivity and ease of use and portability. Anybody who has been stuck on a plane or in an airport in the last 2 years. Anybody who has a Mac or iPhone or iTouch because they instinctively understand how to use it and what it will unlock.

I think Kindle and Nook early adopters and those who have considered it are going to run to this device. The price point says, why not upgrade and get more that just an ugly book reader thingy? I think the celebrity chic set will be all over it too--it's a great way to consume what they create and interact with their peeps and their fans. If it's out, wouldn't you expect to see it in an Oscar goodie bag?

2) We know what the iPad looks like. It looks like a big iPhone. The iPhone is amazing, but it's not been hailed as a savior of media advertising. What makes the iPad different?

The iPad itself isn't the big news (though it's very cool and very worthy of some attention).  What's different is the signal that technology companies like Apple (and Google) continue to send when they create extremely compelling devices, applications, browsers and experiences such as the iPad (especially if it's successful) that give advertisers and agencies and agency creatives more and more compelling places to play. This is yet another harbinger of opportunities that are not yet to come but that are here, now, for brands and agencies willing to fluidly collaborate.

3) At a very broad level, what are all the different ways you can see the iPad giving publishers and content producers an advantage in advertising?

It's only one device -- though a very high-profile one to be sure. One advantage the iPad gives publishers and content producers is the sheer size of the iPad audience and those who cover and market to that audience. There is tremendous opportunity to partner and show they are highly motivated to serve up their wares -- however and wherever the audience wants it.
 
Moreover, this is a HUGE learning opportunity. We can track, test and measure response, behaviors and trends through the iPad and learn what customers want -- both in the form of the technology and in the content they acquire there. I, for one, can't wait to see how many iPads end up in the hands of affluent business travelers in lounges and airplanes. Is it really fast enough and powerful enough for the fat middle of the gaming marketplace? Will this be, as I suspect, the beginning of the "it" thing that students really need and want to carry in their backpacks all the way through to college? Will device proliferation speed up cloud computing, so I can get my stuff and my programs on any device I carry, cheaper and faster?

4) I spoke to one publisher who thinks the future of advertising is going to be more interactive. Ads will look more like mini-sites that we WANT to visit rather than click away from. Do you agree, and where does the iPad fit in here?

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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