Search Thrives on Tablets

The growth trajectory on tablets is up and to the right. But the question still looms: How will the advertising work? While much is made of tablets’ potential for display advertising, less attention is paid to search, which appears to work quite well for advertisers.

Recent studies show that marketers enjoy higher click-through rates and lower costs for ads targeted to the devices. Data from ad management company Marin Software suggests tablet users were 37 percent more likely to click on search ads than desktop users during the third quarter of the year, while the cost of those ads for its clients was 29 percent lower.

That behavior is the result of a combination of factors, the firm’s vp or marketing Matt Lawson suggested. For one, tablet owners are more likely to be using the device as they consume other media. They might see a TV ad and search for a brand, for example. In addition, the form factor of the device lends itself well to certain search-friendly activities, such as commerce.

“In the short run, there’s an opportunity to get in early and buy some cheaper traffic. Tablet-user behavior is out in front of advertisers,” Lawson said, though he predicted click-though rates and ad prices will begin to normalize as the devices continue to proliferate.

Agencies, meanwhile, claim clients with tablet-specific strategies are already reaping rewards, particularly thanks to the demographic the devices currently draw. James Beveridge, a senior analyst at Performics, said the agency is seeing “favorable” click-though rates from the device and sees particular opportunity for marketers in the retail and automotive spaces. “For certain clients tablets offer a huge opportunity. “They sit in realm of early adopter devices and still tilt towards a more affluent, male, younger group … which shows a high inclination to use tablets for shopping,” he said.

Dentsu-owned 360i confirmed that its clients were also seeing high CTRs and conversions from tablets, but it suggested that trend may diminish as the novelty of the devices wears off and its use becomes normalized. David Berkowitz, the agency’s vp of emerging media, also pointed to the fact that Google displays fewer ads per search-results page for tablets than it does for desktops. “Less noise results in higher CTRs,” he suggested.

Of course, given the relatively short existence of tablets, data relating to their use remains limited. According to Marin, just 2 percent of their clients’ overall search budgets were dedicated to the devices during the third quarter. Lawson said he expects advertisers to divert more budget to the medium over the next three months, though, accelerated by the holiday season.

Though Beveridge admitted that agencies are still catching up to consumer behavior with regards to non-desktop devices, he suggested that vendors themselves are still trying to understand their nuances. “We’re talking to Google, and they’re still trying to understand if tablets look and act like mobile devices or computers. From what we’re seeing they show a bit of both,” he said.

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