More Creative Creative

For many companies, it’s an afterthought. Creative almost never receives the same level of conceptual attention given other creative endeavors, including various forms of offline advertising. It tends to be bland, ineffective at communicating the desired message, often completely irrelevant to the consumer, and (my pet peeve) not interactive.

Online creative is not very creative.

My last few columns discuss emerging video technologies. I hope I’ve driven home the point video will work best online when it gets interactive. Streaming video providers know this, and many of their tools support interactivity.

There’s no more timely example than the recently announced new capabilities of Unicast’s Video Commercial. Only four months after the launch of the format, and Unicast’s enhancing it with more robust support for interactivity. Clearly, the importance of interactivity hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Evidence abounds that interactivity is better than no interactivity. A Q2 2003 Dynamic Logic MarketNorms study shows interactivity more than doubled ad performance against key metrics such as message association, brand favorability, and purchase intent. We’ve all seen countless case studies demonstrating this kind of lift for individual advertisers and campaigns.

I wandered the halls a few days ago asking folks about their experiences with interactive and static advertising. I learned ads that feature interactive elements outperform their flat cousins by a factor of three or more. Admittedly, it’s anecdotal evidence and not very scientific, but I have zero doubt more formal analysis of a cross-section of campaigns would yield a similar conclusion.

By making your online advertising interactive, your Web campaigns could be at least three times more efficient than static ads. Why not go interactive?

It’s remarkable how few interactive ads I see during a normal online day. I fully recognize the numerous hurdles in executing a solid interactive ad. They can be complex and expensive to produce and run. Rich media often comes at a premium media cost. But given the incredible performance increase if it’s properly executed, I’m amazed it’s not done more often. Performance lift usually far outweighs the extra costs.

“Performance” isn’t strictly direct response metrics. Adding interactivity has also proven to significantly boost campaigns when measured against brand objectives.

I’ve written about purposeful interactivity. It’s important to again note although punch-the-monkey interactivity may be an effective way to get clicks, it’s not likely to convert well and could damage your brand. This isn’t the kind of interactivity I’m advocating. Online, consumers have control. It’s a different world. Be relevant, and deliver some sort of perceived value.

Online advertising allows users to choose the information they want to receive. Rather than blasting a message via a broadcast medium such as TV or radio, we can engage a consumer in meaningful dialogue. Let the consumer determine what information about your brand, product, or message is important. The consumer self-selects. Allowing users to pull the message, rather than constantly push it at them, is a powerful shift.

Interactivity also gives advertisers the opportunity to connect with consumers earlier in the purchase funnel. Usually, a consumer’s first visit to your Web site represents the first opportunity to engage that person. With interactive ads, you can establish that connection before the consumer visits your site. This can be tremendously powerful and is a key reason why interactive ads are so effective.

I recently spent some time searching through a couple rich media companies’ ad galleries for examples of good online advertising. I found hardly any. Everything was the same. Most were poorly executed. Precious few were interactive. And these are supposedly the cream of the crop. The vendors chose the ads in theory because they’re good examples of how to leverage their particular technologies. I was totally unimpressed, even frustrated. I hope a year from now, when I revisit those galleries, it’ll be a different story.

Repeat after me: “Interactive good; passive bad.”

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