June 28, 2011 by Jon Slott
If you were in Dallas last week and happened to be looking for a Wi-Fi version of the Apple iPad 2, you were out of luck. If you called the downtown Apple Store - you’d have been told that they didn’t have a single iPad 2 to sell. Retailers like Target, Walmart and Best Buy…still no luck.
It’s easy to see why the iPad is so popular.
In the 1980’s, when computers started to model our physical world - with graphical user interfaces that mirror how we organize ourselves in everyday life - people began to relate to the machines in a way they hadn’t before. The means of controlling them had become a more tactile experience. The mouse and cursor quickly became an extension of us; we were able to grab things, pick them up, and move them to wherever we desired.
Since then, we’ve grown a tight relationship with our machines.
Now that we have touch screen technology, our machines have become even more tactile, and our relationship with them has again evolved. By allowing us to further employ real-life gestures to complete tasks, the iPhone, and other touch screen smart phones have created a new way to physically interact with a device. And the app developers are driving that change by designing their software around this interaction.
Imagine what it would be like to play Angry Birds with a mouse or joystick. It would feel really weird. Part of the fun is the physical act of pulling back the slingshot and catapulting the birds into their suicide mission.
Now enter the iPad – and all of the other tablets on the market. With their larger screens, you can pick even more stuff up with your hands and connect yourself further. So far, the app developers have brilliantly used the iOS to create engaging content. Their efforts have contributed to the success of the platform.
The developers have digitized more of the physical items that we use in everyday life for the iPad, and like any good piece of software, they’ve added features that take the experience well beyond the item’s real-world functionality.
Earlier this year, a production company recruited BREED to provide music and sound design for an app they were developing – the first of its kind – an interactive storybook for the iPad. Released last month, this animated narrative blurs the line between picture books and film. Most of all – it lets the user ‘play’ in the story’s environment, using the touch screen to make the main character run or fly or paint the sky.
A couple of weeks ago, another interactive book for the iPad was released. This time, it was an app created to celebrate the 125th birthday of Coca Cola.
Based upon the print edition of the book, ‘Coca-Cola’, published by Assouline, this digital version brings even more life to the story of the iconic soft drink. The app feels like an interactive documentary - with historic illustrations that come to life with movement and sound, classic commercials, photographs of pop culture legends, and just regular people interacting with the product.
It even has a live music video of K’Naan performing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, complete with a link to download the artist’s music from iTunes.
A marketing opportunity within a marketing opportunity.
I don’t see this as a potential replacement for traditional advertising, but it has the potential to be a strong partner. Having this technology widens the creative palette: a fusion of interactive media, traditional broadcast, enhanced print advertising, tie-ins to the web, social media etc. And in the case of the app that BREED just completed, it can include games as well.
At most of the agencies I visit, I’ll typically meet with writers, art directors and producers. However, one of the agencies I visited last month served up a brand new experience for me. In addition to the core creative team, I found myself talking to a staff of back-end and front-end programmers. They spend their day working with computer code, which is a seemingly different world than my own, yet we all seemed to occupy the same headspace when we talked about production, aesthetics, and flow.
They just apply a different set of tools to express their creativity.
Most of all, they employ a non-linear and variable based approach to their creative. In traditional broadcast, we follow a strict linear timeline – our pieces have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But programmers have to include a system of variable possibilities to their creative outline; a choice of different paths for the user to follow. From a music production standpoint, the execution has to incorporate sonic events that can be triggered randomly by the user - with each passage relating to the other in such a way that they flow seamlessly together and correspond with the visuals. The goal is to create the illusion of a ‘linear’ and cohesive sound.
Here’s what I found most interesting during my visit to this agency:
They recently hired a team of experienced broadcast producers, who, for most of their careers, have been working on spots for TV & Radio. I’ve worked with a couple of them before on traditional broadcast, and I can’t wait to see what their production model is going to look like in the future. I’m curious about how they’ll mash up different forms of media and utilize their vendor’s talents in a non-linear world.
The platform is young. The iPad is just over a year old and all of its possible uses have yet to be discovered. In terms of entertainment value and story-telling potential -- it’s going to be a real opportunity for us.
Jon Slott is the Executive Producer of Dallas, Texas-based music company, BREED. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.