Apple is scheduled to release the Apple Watch on April 24.
The Epicurious Smart Timer was designed to be paired with the Condé Nast-owned food site’s existing iOS app. Users can activate the timer after selecting a food item they’re about to cook on the app, be it steak, chicken, pork, seafood, veggies or eggs. Haptics notify users if they need to take an action – for example, ”time to flip the steak” – as well as when the food is halfway finished and then fully cooked. Accompanying images display what the food should look like at each various stage of cooking.
It took a lot of discussion during the planning process for the Epicurious team to decide what it was going to do on the Apple Watch, if anything.
“The first thing you might think of is, ‘Let’s put recipes on your wristwatch.’ Makes sense, right?” said Eric Gillin, executive director of Epicurious. “But if you can measure TV usage in hours, desktop usage in half hours and phone usage in minutes – the watch is going to be measured in seconds. It’s just not enough real estate to read on.”
That’s also what makes advertising a challenge on the watch. As Apple notes in its Apple Watch developer guidelines, “Incorporate a brand’s assets in a refined, unobtrusive way. People use your app to get things done to be entertained; they don’t want to feel as if they’re being forced to watch an advertisement.”
Although that statement applies more to an app’s personal branding, it’s fair to assume that traditional advertising tactics won’t be wholly welcome on the watch platform.
The Epicurious smartphone app includes banners, as well as interstitial opportunities when a user launches the app or taps on a timer, but they won’t translate to the watch, where Epicurious is going for a more subtle branding approach.
Luxury car brand Lexus will sponsor the functionality launch of the Epicurious Smart Timer on the Apple Watch, and the two will be partnering to create a custom recipe channel that will include recipes from the Lexus Culinary Masters, a group of celebrity chefs that act as ambassadors for the Lexus brand.
Epicurious, which previously worked with Lexus on sponsored content, has been getting deeper into native recently. In March, Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group signed a deal with TripleLift to power native placements across its various sites, including Epicurious, Bon Appétit and roughly 80 food blogs. The placements will be sold both directly and through private native marketplaces.
“One of the things I’m pretty conscientious about is that native advertising should work like editorial,” Gillin said. “Everything needs to be clearly labeled so that people aren’t confused. It’s important for both sides. If you love a sponsored recipe and it doesn’t say the name of the brand, then that isn’t good. I’m into clarity. Our app for the Apple Watch is actually a really great example of how product and editorial are really linked.”
Product and editorial, but not overt advertising.
“Buzz, look down, ‘Your cooking has been brought to you by: insert brand name here.' That’s not respectful,” Gillin said. “At best, you’re looking at a push notification, and even that might not be ideal, considering how small the screen is, and you don’t want to irritate people. There’s no such thing as DFP for watches.”
Several other large publishers have also announced their watch intentions in the weeks leading up to launch, including The Economist, which is playing around with Watch-controlled playback of its audio edition, and The New York Times, which is focusing on creating “one-sentence stories” and super-tiny breaking news alerts.
On the other hand, some companies are pushing for display ads. There might not be a wearables version of DoubleClick for Publishers, but mobile ad exchange TapSense will be trying its hand at launching a programmatic ad platform for the Apple Watch. According to TapSense CEO and co-founder Ash Kumar, the TapSense watch SDK is in “active testing” with several publishers, agencies and brands – among them Rakuten Marketing – and is set to be generally available when the watch goes live.
There’s a fine line between what could work on the watch and what might be a turnoff, but that doesn’t mean paid media is an impossibility, said Josh Glantz, SVP of strategy and business development at beacon and location marketing company Mobiquity Networks.
“The fear is that the Apple Watch will become a media platform, but with every new device and every new interface, there’s also an opportunity to redefine what a paid integration might look like or what that experience might be,” Glantz said, “The Apple Watch absolutely opened itself up to being part of that consumer dialogue and journey. Marketers are going to have to be very careful to curate what they want to say and how they say it. The when and the where will be critical pain points here because that context will make or break the consumer’s perception of whether they need, or even want, this type of communication at all.”