We know cross-media works, but what's the best way to marry TV and the Internet?
Media buyers always emphasize the importance of cross-media promotion. We've all seen the groundbreaking statistics from last year's mixed-media Dove campaign. We know that increasing online spending can improve brand awareness and purchase intent metrics much more cost effectively than spending more on television or print.
That's why we continue to recommend our clients allocate more of their overall budgets to online advertising. Not so long ago, convincing advertisers to back this strategy was a tough job. The emergence of further studies sustaining our arguments has made this portion of our work much easier. These days, we face a new dilemma. How does one transfer existing offline creative to the Internet without compromising its quality, impact, and integrity?
It's an issue that has perplexed countless cross-media advertisers, particularly those who rely primarily on television to promote their goods. Every day, Internet users come across poorly executed versions of television ads that are far less impressive and effective than their offline counterparts. One would think the constant technological developments in the world of rich media would make this problem a thing of the past. Yet advertisers, agencies, and media buyers continue to break two golden rules. Some employ ad formats that limit their creativity, believing that tying together offline and online creative is as easy as extracting images from a commercial and cramming them into an animated banner. The rest misuse the ad design technology, developing ads that are too lengthy to be tolerated or too elaborate to be fully absorbed.
There's a cross-media advertising technique on the rise that doesn't diminish the quality of television creative but could actually help advertisers leverage their offline investment. If you spent any time on MSN over the last few weeks, you may have already seen it in action. There, monster advertiser Coca-Cola ran a new promotional campaign employing an MSN internal Flash ad. The ad, featuring those trademark soda bubbles and anchoring itself under the menu bar, relayed a simple message to viewers: "Click here to check out the new TV commercial."
What's unique about this approach? Coke likely spent a significant amount of money on a new TV ad, but instead of painstakingly trying to replicate it online -- possibly compromising the desired effect -- the company digitized it for use on its Web site. The company recognized an opportunity to expose an online audience to its offline creative in all its glory while driving traffic to its consumer site. Although Coke may have chosen to employ rich media technology for this particular campaign, the same message could easily have been expressed in a button or a banner ad incorporating branded colors and recognizable product cues -- good news for advertisers with smaller online budgets.
A similar formula has already been employed by many cross-media advertisers, including BMW, who took it to a new level by making its past and most recent BMW Films series (part art, part advertising) available online, driving traffic to the site via online and offline ads. But if you're considering leveraging your TV creative in this fashion, take heed: There's no guarantee surfers will want to click through to view your flashy new ad.
For advertisers such as Coke, a long history of innovative commercials coupled with a household brand name increases the chances of generating significant interest. Still, there's doubt as to the whether any commercial (save the Super Bowl spots, perhaps) can draw a sizeable crowd. The growing popularity of technology such as TiVo has confirmed consumers are more than willing to skip commercials. If that's the case, what could possibly motivate Internet users to voluntarily view a TV ad online? When asked if the Coke campaign was attracting any clicks, MSN opted not to divulge the results.
There's also speculation about whether this approach takes full advantage of the cross-media opportunity at hand. Recent studies show consumers are spending considerable time exposing themselves to multiple media at once -- 47 percent of Internet users regularly watch TV and surf the Net simultaneously. Advertisers could theoretically be utilizing both media vehicles in concord, building engaging promotions and interactive contests (think the release of the movie "Swordfish" that had consumers seeking clues on TV ads to solve a mystery online). Instead, the Coke/MSN approach has advertisers simply repeating their ads in a desperate attempt to snag any consumer who may have missed the TV version.
As cross-media advertising continues to prove its worth and the link between television and the Internet is further solidified, marketers will surely be tempted to experiment. This particular approach may get around the issue of effectively translating offline material for online, but can it really produce results? Are there better ways to utilize the TV space and the Net? What do you think? Send me your thoughts.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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