The Top Challenges to 'Watch' Out for in Wearable Advertising

By Special Guest
Jason Cooper, GM Mobile, Integral Ad Science
May 05, 2015

Wearables, such as the recently released Apple Watch, offer an opportunity for brands to reach audiences in a personalized way, offering true one-to-one marketing. While the industry is still in beta for wearables, there are factors that can be examined during these early stages to prepare for when this new opportunity is ready to be fully embraced.

Currently, there is uncertainty around the advertising opportunities that will be available through the Apple Watch. Browse any of the Watchkit Apple Developer forums and there is scarce chatter about how to implement advertising from the developers themselves. Despite some companies coming to market with stories of an advertising marketplace for the watch, no one really knows yet. Also, based on developer feedback, it seems no one is actively looking into this possibility right now either.

One thing is clear: wearables will become essential to any brand looking to build on their relationships with their pre-installed app user base. As an example, Apple's 'Taptic Engine' is central to the Apple Watch experience. These are the subtle alerts and vibrations generated by the apps themselves. 

In Come the 3rd Party Ads
A potential use case of brands taking advantage of this opportunity is Starbucks alerting a user of an upcoming coffee promotion or The Economist offering Apple Watch users a free 30 day subscription if they reply to a dedicated alert. But brands need to be sensitive about creating a good user experience. There is the possibility of annoying watch wearers, or sending users what they might consider irrelevant offers. It is important to remember that brands will be competing with notifications and alerts from other apps on the paired phone.

Brands will need to think carefully about allowing 'general' advertising through the Apple Watch. You might see British Airways sending an offer from Starwood Hotels because of the affiliation of these brands and there is a cross-promotional deal between the two companies, but they will have to be mindful of preserving this experience. Irrelevant offers will quickly annoy the user and reflect poorly on the main app. As it stands today, any third-party notifications would likely be delivered through the existing notification alert system via the host app.

It’s a Small Screen After All
Due to the limited screen size of the Apple Watch, advertising will mostly be restricted to text based offers with subtle visuals. There are no guidelines or templates for Apple Watch that are concerned with advertising. The focus today is around ‘Glances’ - collections of timely and contextually relevant moments from the wearer’s favorite apps. The banners we see across mobile today will not work in the same form for wearables. Advertisers will need to ensure that formats are creative and do not lead to the advertising message being ignored or disabled. Apple explicitly calls this out under their Apple Watch branding guidelines, advising brands to resist the temptation to display logos which could take up premium “face time.”

So, what needs to be done in order to overcome these challenges?

Apple and other wearables developers need to provide toolkits and further guidance for how advertising will be easily integrated within the devices. Advertising in wearables will need to be customized to be truly successful. Banners as we know them today will not work. Brands will need to think creatively about what the user experience looks like and create advertising that integrates seamlessly with clever alerts and notifications.

Most importantly, brands must tread carefully and be mindful that wearables provide a very personalized and one-to-one experience. Irrelevant offers will quickly annoy users and reflect badly on the brand of the main app.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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