Launching The Racing Post iPad App

This has been an interesting project for us, and has been heavily craft led, so it gives us a chance to talk about that a little bit. Since Apple launched the iPad there has been a lot of excited talk about what it could mean for publishing. Up until now though, iPad versions of print publications have tended to be redesigned version of the print edition, with a bit of interactive content or video here and there. Not bad, by any means, but not the revolution people were talking about.

Racing Post have come up with what I honestly think is a revolutionary iPad version of their newspaper. In the fact that it isn't really just an iPad version of their newspaper. It has all of the editorial content of their print edition, but as well as deeper editorial, the iPad version has loads of actual functional tools and usable pages. Things like fully interactive race cards for all the days races, with infinitely deep information about the runners and riders, that you can actually follow through to placing your bet through the app. And that's just for starters. The app brings together function and editorial in a way that only the iPad can, and is the best use of the iPad from an print media brand that I've seen. So a huge hats off the Racing Post, but quite a challenge to us to sum all that up in launch advertising.

One of the very first decisions that we made was that we didn't want to go out all shouting and whooping about how revolutionary it is. I hate that – it’s not believable, because too many people have said it about things that aren’t. But also, it's much more powerful if people make that decision for themselves. Much better to show fans of racing and betting what it can do, and let them make that decision for themselves. Testing of the app in development had shown that racing fans love it, and some even said they would buy an iPad just for this app.

So once we've made the decision to base the launch of the app on demonstrating what it can do, we face a new problem. That problem is the success of the Apple advertising. I think I've said it before on here, but I consider Apple's to be some of the consistently best advertising of the last ten years. That it doesn't get more credit in the ad industry is amazing to me. Obviously it's not hurt by the fact that they have great products to promote, but they do it very, very well indeed. So, one of the big problems, when you've decided to create demonstration-led advertising for an Apple-based product is - how do you do it well, without it looking like an apple ad?

We decided to take a type-led approach, which would take the viewer through different parts of the app, to help give a sense of momentum to the ads. Cutting between demo parts and the type would help us to control the tempo. And also this would help to differentiate it from Apple ads (they tend to use voice overs, not always, but mostly I think). We enlisted the help of our good friend and master on-screen art director and typographer Squa to help us develop a look and style for the typography.

Given the depth of the app, we decided to make one master 'launch' ad, which gave a snippet across the board of all the different, clever things that the app could do. Then a series of shorter ads which each showcased a particular aspect of the app. So whatever style we developed would have to be interesting enough to carry over many executions, but also not so gimmicky that it would be annoying. We wanted something that was bold and had an intelligence to it. We developed a look based on the HFJ Gotham typeface, which we would use reversed out of picture in a couple of different weights and styles, and also reversed out of blocks to emphasise different words.

Music would also play a huge part in the feel of the ads, as they would in effect be held together as  campaign by the music and visual style, we wanted something that would add energy that would drive the momentum of the ads, alongside the typography. After trying out a lot of alternatives we went with the song Devil In Me by the 22-20s.

And last but probably most importantly, the visual style of the demos themselves. We were well aware of the fact that pretty much the entirety of these ads would be the demos, so we wanted something that would give us the variety of visual to keep them interesting. I'm a huge fan of Apple's simple, locked-off shots and white backgrounds, they work really well for them. But for us because we are showing quite detailed features within the same app, it would be quite easy for it to get tedious. We went to Tom King at Gas & Electric who has made some great commercials for us in the past (these, and some we can't share just yet), and who understands the technical challenges of shooting live demos. He suggested we go with backgrounds that felt they were 'on location' to keep the shots interesting, and give them a more 'live' feel than a studio demo. And also mix up the angles and distance we shoot the iPad from, for more variety and to help differentiate between cuts. We also shot live 'open' backgrounds for the type to be set against.

What was left then was days of craft in the edits, choosing which parts and what order, and how much time for the demo sections and type, to try to do justice to the app. Happily, so far since launch the app has attracted thousands of downloads and happy customers. If you're into Racing or a keen bettor, you should look it up.

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