Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Expect Tablet PC Ads to Be More Like TV Product Placements, Says Yahoo


Yahoo's got its eye firmly fixed on the tablet PC revolution, and the potential for new profits: It's been working on a whole new advertising system with the glossy PCs in mind. With Apple's rumored iAd system en route, it looks like good timing.

Mobile advertising is a massive growth industry—and with Apple and Google both making purchases of hundred-million-dollar mobile ad businesses, it will soon be growing even faster. But until now, the digital ad industry has had only two targets: the big screen on your laptop or desktop PC, and the tiny screen on your smartphone. The tablet, as Apple itself notes, is a "third way" and as a new class of mobile computer, it's expected to revolutionize how users think about portable computing. Hence, Yahoo's interest in expanding adverts in this new direction.

According to Yahoo's execs, the model the company's proposing for this new ad system is actually closer to the product placement used in TV and movie advertising—representing a departure from the banner and roadblock placements you typically see on the Net. It's because the tablet is different to both PCs and smartphones—as Sandeep Gupta, senior director of apps at Yahoo notes, "you have to oversimplify" to get ads on a tiny smartphone screen, but while the typical tablet's screen "may be bigger," it's actually much "more entertaining" and therefore ad placements are less obtrusive, and can contain more information. In fact, Yahoo seems to be planning some extremely clever and interactive ad technology, that's almost like its own user interface between the advert's content and the viewer. As part of the new Yahoo Entertainment iPad app, for example, the home screen appears like a typical living room complete with furniture (symbolizing the more relaxed, personal interaction one seems to be able to have with the iPad compared to, say, a typical netbook) and each time it reloads the user will get a different "experience." For example, a beverage standing on the coffee tablet could be a Coke can, or a Starbucks take-out mug—each symbol being a clickable hyperlink to that company's own Web site.

Yahoo's also pursuing HTML5 tech to power this new approach to tablet PC ads. This is because they've got one eye on the future of Web tech, with HTML5 being the next-gen Internet code, and because Apple's iPad won't run any Adobe Flash technology. Another boost for Steve Jobs' battle against Flash tech, it would seem.

To keep up with this news in a more real-time setting, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too.