By Al Urbanski

Jobsville’s latest stab at device dominance is not exactly ringing alarms in marketing quarters, though some interesting possibilities are being pondered.

For around $300, one can buy a Citizen Eco-Drive watch that runs forever on natural or artificial light. So a $549 device that has to be removed and put on power life support every 18 hours can hardly be called a watch. Plainly, the Apple Watch is more than just a timekeeper, but will it serve any useful purpose as a brand-builder or conversion-maker?

“I don’t think this will be a game-changer for marketers the way iPad and iPhone was, but I don’t want to bash it outright because in time it might warrant extra investment from marketers. It took the iPad a while to develop,” says Tom Bash, a senior executive of Exponential, a digital advertising company. “The Apple Watch will create some unique and interesting one-to-one opportunities. I just don’t know whether there’ll be the scale.”

The blogo- and Twitter- spheres united around some common criticisms of Apple Watch. There were the techno-geek/non-watch wearers who’d happily line up for the next iPhone but had no intentions of strapping it to their wrists. There were watch fanciers who mocked the cheek of Apple for asking $10,000 for a “Watch Edition” version that would be obsolete in two years when one could use that sum to purchase a low-end Rolex that will last forever and increase in value. And there were marketers and business strategists who wondered exactly what the killer app of the Apple Watch was.

Mobil agency Urban Airship, for one, is more taken with the marketing possibilities of the device than its obvious deficiencies. It issued a “Watch Notifications Inspriation Guide” minutes after Apple CEO Tim Cooks completed his unveiling of the watch on Monday. Urban Airship is partially in the camp of Tweeters who say, “If Apple builds it, they will come,” citing an NPD study saying that there is 50% wearable awareness in the marketplace. The agency is convinced that Apple Watch will provide companies with a new advertising time slot, one that Forrester Research has labeled “glanceable’ moments.” It sees the Apple Watch’s “taptic engine” –which gently taps the wrist of a wearer to notify it of a communication—as a conduit to more customer interactions. Interactive buttons on the watch, it adds, enable immediate interaction not possible with other devices and beacons will be able to blithely interact with watch wearers at retail.

Apple Watch’s most profound marketing impact,however, might first reveal itself the B2B arena. In tandem with the product’s introduction, introduced Salesforce for Apple Watch with the prounouncement that “cloud, social, mobile, and data science revolutions are converging on the wrist.” Through the Salesforce 1 function, sales managers can be in constant contact with reps wherever they may be–alerting them to immediate opportunities, dispatching customer intelligence, or immediately approving deals during face-to-face sales calls. Through the Analytics Cloud, marketers can interact with dashboards and react to real-time marketplace changes. Already having introduced integrations with a dozen other wearables, Salesforce views the Apple Watch announcement as a culmination of the effort.

“This is going to allow companies to connect with their customers and their own people in a way they have never had before,” proclaims Michael Peachey, VP of solutions and product marketing for “That screen is designed for 10-second interactions. It can nudge people. In a glance, they can see if they need to take action.”

From PCs to iPods to iPhones and their screen-swipe technology, Apple has long been in the business of decreasing people’s attention spans. It’s not unthinkable, then, that the 10-second interaction ends up being the optimal one for brand-building among consumers. That’s about as long as many people get into videos before moving on. But marketing within that time frame will pose strategic and creative challenges.

If there are eyeballs on Apple Watch screens, there will be ads. The question is, what form they will take to create an experience that delivers real value for both the user and the marketer,” says Mike Kisseberth, CRO of Purch, a publisher of product reviews and deal information for shoppers. “End-user interactions with the device are inherently brief, so marketers will have to identify the right combination of functionality and data to trigger the best results.”

Due to Apple’s obsession with its users’ privacy, Bash of Exponential thinks it’s doubtful that traditional advertising and tracking methods will emerge on Apple Watch. “The more important question is what level of access advertisers will have to the additional data generated by the Apple Watch ,” he says.


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By Christopher Heine

And you thought making a killer ad for a smartphone was tough.

With today’s unveiling of the Apple Watch, marketers are facing the realistic possibility of a looming smartwatch era that will force brands to devise effective messages on the tiniest of screens.

“If there are eyeballs on [the screens], there will be ads,” said Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer at Purch. “The question is, what form they will take to create an experience that delivers real value for both the user and the marketer.”

Indeed, the Apple Watch creates a marketing niche that will require testing formats that squeeze into the wearable’s 38-millimeter and 42-millimeter screen options. So we asked a handful of agency leads to weigh in on the new dilemmas posed by the device.

“The challenge marketers will face will be one of using adequate restraint,” said Ben Parker, Naked Communications’ head of stategy. “The temptation will be to try to rush onto people’s wrists with the kind of content that is currently served on their phones. This will be a mistake.”

Push notifications could viewed as bad news to smartwatch wearers, added Dan LaCivita, CEO of Firstborn.

“Because the Apple Watch is largely notification-based, and it will be tempting to tap into that, there is a huge risk of being irritating when marketing to users—a constantly vibrating wrist will get old fast,” he said. “So marketers are going to have to be very edited in terms of frequency and value when it comes to creating Watch-based alerts.”

Brands are going to have to be concise to not only fit their messages onto the screen but to also work in harmony with consumers’ ever-shortening attention spans. Mike McKenna, managing partner at McKenna and Partners in Boston, said the copy will have to be headline-driven.

“Challenges via the wrist are similar to old-fashioned, out-of-home communications like billboards—where you need to get the whole story out at 55 miles an hour,” McKenna said.

Sophie Kleber, director, product and innovation at Huge, advised industry peers to “make it legible and immediately useful.”

Kleber continued, “People look at their watches continuously throughout the day, for about 0.5 seconds each time. With that in mind, designers should focus on only providing messaging and functionality that is timely, of high contextual importance, and immediately actionable. If you have to take out your phone to complete an action initiated on the watch, then it’s not a true watch use case.”

Tara Greer, EVP, executive creative director, platforms, at Deutsch LA, predicted that brand presences on Apple Watch will likely be utility based, similarly to apps on smartphones.

“Marketers will have to work harder to earn a place on our bodies,” she said. “Sports marketers are probably going to have the easiest time of this; there’s a natural fit between tracking physical data and creating great products and services for the [Apple Watch], that don’t feel invasive, but rather, like a natural extension of the brand.”

Whether Apple Watch ads and marketing actually work will be worth observing in the coming months.

“At some point, there is only so small a screen can get before it is not an effective visual medium, regardless of the age demographic,” said McKenna.

At the same time, Tom Bash, senior manager of product strategy and operations for Exponential, addressed the elephant in the room: Will enough people actually buy Apple Watch to warrant marketers’ time and money? Preorders become available April 10, starting at $349.

It’s unclear, he said, “if Apple can convince non-watch people—and consumers who wear watches primarily for fashion reasons—that they need a smartwatch in addition to their iPhone.”

To find out, set the calendar app on your smartwatch (if you have one, that is) to the end of April—or the next time Apple CEO Tim Cook and company take center stage while revealing their quarterly earnings. That’s when we’ll find out about the demand for the tech giant’s latest invention.


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