The Third Internet Media Channel

With the New Year, no doubt you’ll soon be hit with a client request to develop “new ideas” to take online media efforts higher. Everyone wants new, new, new. But with the current barrage of legislative actions on email, over 50 percent of all email traffic being spam, and efforts to standardize online ad space (some call it display advertising) leaving less room to innovate, you’ll have to work hard to come up with outside-the-box tactics.

(Anyone know who came up with the clever phrase “display advertising”? I just cringe when I hear it, knowing we’re taking yet another piece of print syntax and applying it to interactive marketing. Can’t we just say interactive advertising and online ads? There’s nothing “display” about interactive advertising — unless you’re content cranking out really bad ad creative.)

Sure, there are endless new strategies and tactic to discover. But from a tactical perspective, what’s left to innovate? How about what I call online marketing’s third channel?

How to Skip the Clutter

If you count browser-based marketing as the first online ad channel and the email inbox as the secondary way to get at customers over IP, you should seriously consider a third approach: direct to desktop.

I’m talking about getting your customer’s permission to deliver rich, compelling content and sales messages right to their hard drives. This can be accomplished by either working with one of many service providers (such as CABC in Dallas, TX) or building a content-delivery network yourself. (I recommend the first approach.)

Following a registration process, you persuade your customer to receive future installments of information via a secure delivery system. A small applet is downloaded to manage content receipt. Future content is downloaded to the customer’s desktop and a notification is triggered to alert the user there’s something new to view. Typically, this is accomplished via a desktop “toast” pop-up. Once the user clicks the notification, the file’s launched and can be repeatedly viewed with no need for a Net connection. File-size imitations aren’t an issue as the content is accessed from the local hard drive, not over an IP connection.

Control and Tractability

Since the content is delivered from a central source, you can control the delivery date as well as user notification. The content is sent in small packets, so it doesn’t matter if the end user has a low- or high-bandwidth connection. The user isn’t notified there’s new content until it’s completely delivered. And to avoid any PointCast déjà vu from IT managers, the content can be triggered for delivery during off-hours to avoid clogging corporate networks.

Tracking is also comprehensive. You know who has received what and when, and if they’ve viewed the entire content set.

Potential Applications

This type of tactic should only be used as retention tool, never for acquisition. I doubt many potential customers would opt in for a download from a company they have no prior relationship with, unless it’s a very well-known brand.

This approach has great potential in scenarios where you need:

  • Rich media versions of customer newsletters. This could include full-screen versions of 30-second TV-like creative, with 1MB or larger file sizes for media.

  • Delivery of online demos or new product introductions with size-intensive interactive content, now typically reserved for CD-ROM.
  • Interactive gaming with multiversion experiences.
  • Interactive training modules with imbedded multimedia files.

A Real-Life Example

A valuable application we recently used was delivery of an upcoming suite of new TV creative for automotive dealers. Instead of shipping CDs or VHS tapes, we notified our contacts about a special announcement and requested they register for a special event. We preloaded four high-quality TV spots with a cool user interface (the total download was just under 5MB) and triggered the pop-up for 9 am the day of the TV campaign launch.

All across the country, every dealer was notified of the new campaign. Each could watch high-quality versions of the spots right on their desktops. They could watch the work repeatedly and show it at sales and employee meetings. All this was achieved at one-tenth the cost of sending physical media.

Be Ready for the Call

When your client makes that request for something “new” this week, you can tell them about a whole new channel: direct-to-desktop. With few limitations and lots of potential for marketers and end users, you’ll surely get kudos for new thinking.

Good luck, and may 2004 rock for interactive advertising!

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