Integrating Interactive Campaigns

Interactive has become the central element of many overall campaigns. This doesn’t hold true for all campaigns, nor is online more important than any other medium. However, consumers, from boomers to the youngest of the millennials, increasingly choose to connect electronically to the social and physical worlds around them. As a result, interactive often emerges as the hub of a marketing platform.

Interactive’s central role fits perfectly with leading brand marketers’ integration strategies. Look at American Express’ My Life My Card campaign. It features several media, including TV and point of sale, yet the online elements really tie the campaign together from a participation perspective.

This is often true of contemporary campaigns, and it makes sense. E-marketing is built on a platform that’s both interactive and in itself an integrated platform. E-marketing is a collection of disciplines that are routinely used together. Not a single channel, it instead includes activities as diverse as search, word of mouth, point of sale, and post-sale support (think CRM). E-marketing helps funnel awareness, interest, action, and the sharing of experience in support of immediate and future sales.

In comparison, TV is show and tell but not act. Direct mail is comparatively strong on act, but given most consumers’ 30-second attention span (where’d they learn that?) direct mail’s pretty much a now-or-never proposition. All these media work and provide value, but look what happens when you add continuous connectivity, permanence (e.g., favorite lists, friends’ lists, or bookmarks), and social integration to the mix. All of sudden, e-marketing is the focal point for many otherwise offline campaigns, boosting overall effectiveness of each individual channel. Wal-Mart’s Julie Roehm noted marketers still pushing the default notion of TV as central are shortsighted. In an Association of National Advertisers (ANA) speech in 2005 she said, “The upfront doesn’t recognize or integrate marketing and promotional relationships.”

TV doesn’t exist in a vacuum any more than any other medium. E-marketing is effective when used with offline media, including TV. A range of supporting media integrates marketing and promotional relationships. This is what participative and social media are about.

Viewed that way, combining your e-marketing platform with the strategic concepts central to marketing integration point the way for an incredible array of brands and marketing applications. Last week, YouTube asked marketers to create their own channels. Maven Networks has a similar platform. Land Rover has its Go Beyond channel, and Anheuser-Busch is building a film and TV unit to produce its own online programming. All these contain programming created for very niche audiences, and all connect a larger audience through supporting e-marketing efforts, then carry the message to the near-universal audience through connections to the offline elements.

Why is it so essential to integrate marketing efforts? Beyond the obvious — the pursuit of highly self-aware, very attractive demographic niches — the simple truth is we’re not always in a buying mood. We’ve all heard the 3,000-messages-daily reference. Even when it was less scientifically determined, the fact is we all see a lot of ads. Being the ever-adaptable species we are, we’ve learned to block them in real time.

“These days, consumers are like walking TiVos, filtering out so much of what they see and hear in advertising,” said Mark Kingdon, chief executive of digital ad agency Organic, in a recent ClickZ column. It’s through a combination of sensible integration and a participative platform like interactive that consumers can be reached on their terms. It’s hard to put a TV spot in a to-do folder, but e-mail does that automatically. I wonder when we’ll see the first integrated campaign that leverages recipients’ online calendars, rather than their inboxes, by sending alerts to do something later. Of course, this party may have already started and I just didn’t get invited (it’s certainly happed before).

YouTube took a further step by combining word of mouth and the consumer as marketer when it announced its Participatory Video Ad model. Consumers are invited to pick up advertising content and place it in their own videos. Sure, it’s a stretch imagining people grabbing a Tidy Bowl spot and stuffing it into a video of a family outing. Fortunately, there are some smart people out there, like the people at Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.” Stephen Colbert did a series of wild tumbling moves in front of a green screen, then invited anyone to build a short clip around the sequence. Results include this amazing piece in which Colbert battles a rancor from “Star Wars.”

Is this an embedded ad for “The Colbert Report”? You bet it is. Does it get passed around? Sure does. As of publication time, more than 500,000 people had watched it.

For more in the social spaces, look at Gil the Crab and his MySpace profile. The self-standing element ties together several other online efforts, like the related Save The Crab Web site, which in turn pulls in TV. In fact, this site builds an audience for TV, rather than other way around. Check out the crab site. The same minute I signed the petition, so did three other people: one from Akron, OH, one from Pearland, TX, and one from Baumholder, Germany. That crab’s got legs.

In each of the above examples, the online elements support, combine, focus, and direct actions put in to play by a variety of media. None exist alone, nor would they work well if they did. To get the most from your marketing spend, including interactive marketing, integrate.

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