You are the CMO or the head of marketing for your company, and you’ve just finalized your social media plans for 2011 at the request of the CEO. Despite the unknowns out there, you are comfortable with your target audience, your message, your content plan, and the platforms you will use. You’ve even got a great candidate who loves the brand and wants to be the evangelist. But last week, your social media evangelist brought you an iPad to try out. You take it home for the weekend, you use it nonstop, and now you are thinking, “Where does this fit in my plans for next year?” While 2011 will see huge growth in spending on mobile advertising, and the display and search markets are back on track from the semi-slump of 2009, where does the iPad and other tablets to be announced from Google, Dell, Nokia, and others fit into your plans?

From a marketer’s perspective, the Web browser is pretty well understood — targeted banner ads that ideally would be integrated into content so as not to be intrusive. Mobile is getting cooler, and the ad platform to support visible ads on small screens is in the hands of the two (now) most popular smartphone platforms, Apple and Android. But this tablet segment seems to be gaining traction as a platform for what marketers dream of:

  • Distraction-free engagement. The use of the iPad as a publisher’s and marketer's dream is based on the fact that it is, primarily, a device for consuming media. Yes, you can get your work email on there, and I’ve seen many people rest all of their fingers on the “keyboard,” but is this really a device for input? Most of the excitement around these devices comes from reading chair/bedside table use, not from upright productivity use.
  • Direct connection from ad to action. The above description is what magazines serve us well with. They take us to new places, show us new styles, or expose us to in-depth commentary without the distraction of email and IM symbols flashing. But on a tablet, this immersive experience can be tied to ads that live and connect a message to an action. You can’t do that in Vogue, but you can in Gourmet’s new Gourmet Live app. That was always true of a banner. But the distraction of a Web page is overwhelming, and the distraction in a tablet app can be minimized.
  • Personal, digital, and trackable use. Unlike most laptops, the one-touch "on" button, lightweight form, and self-contained interface of the iPad and others like it mean that they will move around the house with the user, and of course out into the yard, to the coffee shop, and on planes and trains. What books and movies are you interested in? What are you doing that is primarily leisure? The iPad would know.

So, savvy marketer, is the iPad a laptop replacement, a mobile device, or some newfangled engagement device? Which budget will fund spending and experimenting with your brand experience on this new segment? What do you call this new way of marketing? We’ll have some research coming out on mobile marketing and advertising soon, and we would like your input as to whether tablets fit this on-the-go realm or create a new category of ads.