Mobile

Flat design and iOS 7: How design will change behavior in mobile advertising

Above: iOS 7

Image Credit: Apple

Your calendar app has coil binding. Your digital library has bookshelves. Current mobile interfaces are designed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar. But that’s all going away in iOS 7.

With the release of digital and mobile technology, skeuomorphism, or design that mimics real world objects, made a lot of sense. But design no longer needs to help us understand technology through this mimicry. We see this in iOS 7’s flat design, or trend of focusing on the function and tossing out things like shadows and texture. Advertisers must, in turn, adapt to the new operating system with more seamlessly integrated, non-interruptive, purpose-driven advertising.

The shift from skeuomorphic to flat design is not purely aesthetic. Stripped of any ornamental clutter, the minimalistic design of iOS 7 elevates the content. The implication for advertisers is simple — if any aspect of an ad’s form or function is not integrated into the new interface, it will be a clear distraction from the user experience. Take the new Safari, for example.  It’s buttons and bars stay hidden until you scroll to reveal them and “Reading List” in Safari consolidates web articles into a feed that you can seamlessly scroll through.

This change in design will lead to a change in behavior. Publishers will offer ad placements within their feeds, similar to the current mobile experiences on Facebook and Tumblr. Consequently, advertisers will need to invest more in content marketing to maximize this media opportunity.

To take this one step further, iOS 7 will accelerate the decline of mobile banner ads.

If user interface elements like scroll and address bars are not displayed in the standard view of a site, not only will the inclusion of banner ads stick out like a sore thumb,  they have the potential to lead to negative sentiments toward a brand. In a Vizu study on preroll ads, the frustration from these interruptive ads led to as much as a 33 percent decrease in brand favorability. The intrusion of banner ads into a content-forward, content-only mobile interface detracts from the flow of the user experience, risking a similar reaction.

The flat design of iOS 7 is all about visual cohesion. All apps and pages share the same general aesthetic, leaving no room for distraction. Much of the content will be displayed in plain text within lightboxes so users can navigate in and out of content without friction.  For advertisers, the challenge is to create content that is unobtrusive, but also adds value to the consumer. How advertisers leverage opportunities in new products like iTunes Radio and Siri’s integrated web search is yet to be determined. However, one constant will remain for all advertisements across the flat design of iOS7, natively integrate into the look and feel of the placement or the ad will be an unwelcomed disturbance.

Patrick Keane is president of native advertising firm Sharethrough. He is an investor, advisor, and executive with nearly 20 years of experience in digital media, marketing, and technology. He most recently was on the board of Bleacher Report (sold to Turner Broadcasting in 2012) and now sits on the board of Onswipe, a New York based tablet-publishing platform. Previously, Patrick was Chief Executive Officer of Associated Content, Inc. The company was sold to Yahoo in June 2010 for a reported $100 million. Prior to Associated Content, Patrick was EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at CBS Interactive. Patrick spent more than four years at Google, Inc. where he served as Director of Advertising sales strategy. He was the founder and programmer of Zeitgeist, Google’s annual thought leadership forum. Patrick was Vice President and Senior Analyst at Jupiter Research. He was featured in Ad Age’s “40 Under 40″ section in 2007. In 2009 & 2010 he was selected to Business Insider’s Silicon Alley 100.


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