Punch Media Wants to Redefine Tablet Advertising

App partners with Tribeca Film Festival on first sponsored app

There have been a few stabs at iPad-native newspapers and magazines, with limited success, but the just-released Punch is taking a different tack with its new app. It's more of a collection of apps-within-app, wherein each one—represented as an item on the Punch bookshelf—opens into an interactive editorial feature. Hence the company's motto: "You don't read Punch, you play Punch."

“We wanted to create something on the tablet that was topical and relevant to the culture but could only exist on the tablet,” said Punch CEO and co-founder David Bennahum. “Creatively, the experience really couldn’t work on the Web, couldn’t work in print and couldn’t work on television.”

If Punch’s approach to magazine content is unorthodox, its approach to tablet advertising is even less standard. Bennahum sees the tablet as an entirely new advertising opportunity that shouldn’t mimic print or Web. “We wanted to do an ad unit, but we wanted to reinvent how it works for the tablet’s more deep, immersive experience," said Bennahum. “Tablets can do the emotional of the best TV advertising, and they can give you the deep dive of the best print advertising in terms of educating you.”

Rather than using Web-like pop-up or banner ads or the print-like ad pages found in most digital magazines, Punch is building specific app-like ad units around its sponsors. For its first sponsored unit, Punch partnered with the Tribeca Film Festival, striking a media barter exchange in which Punch has built a Tribeca-sponsored ad unit within its app, and in turn, the festival will promote Punch at its events. The Tribeca app, which appears on the Punch shelf next to the editorial items, is more of an interactive guide to the festival’s films than an actual advertisement. Users can browse an illustrated map of New York City to discover facts and view previews of each of the movies produced there.

“What we’re trying to do is create a marketing experience that rises to the level of editorial,” said Bennahum. “Whatever the advertising messages are, they should be relevant and targeted in a way that makes sense to the audience. I think if we can fulfill that, you’re going to get really nice returns in terms of the consumer appreciating your product, engaging with it and potentially consuming it.”

Bennahum hopes that the Punch advertising model will push tablet advertising to a higher level of standardization. “Since the standard hasn’t been written, now is the time to show what it can be,” he said. “What we have to do in this early stage is show how it can work, and from there, hopefully inspire the rest of the industry and even the advertisers to return to a level of creativity that we’ve all been missing.”

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