Interactive Kiosks: Your Ad Here

Marketers know advertising is just one part of running a thriving business. Product, pricing, positioning and distribution, customer service strategies, and so on must also be in place to achieve overall success.

Nearly every business would benefit from implementing a system that provides added value to their customers and strengthens consumer perception of their brands. One tool out there can satisfy this need while fulfilling another — providing companies with a new interactive arena in which to advertise.

The apparatus of the moment is the self-serve interactive kiosk (a.k.a., “public access terminal” and the product of “customer-facing technology”). If those Internet access terminals increasingly common at airports come to mind, it’s probably time for a reality check. Some do fulfill this particular function. Yet these ATM-style stations are surfacing everywhere to provide a great number of services, many of which you’ve probably already utilized.

They’re found in hotels and airports where they expedite the check-in process, in movie theatres and sporting arenas selling tickets at the touch of a button, in car dealerships where they allow potential buyers to customize the car of their dreams, and in drug and photo stores offering photofinishing services. They’ve recently popped up in fast-food restaurants, encouraging customers to skirt lines and place their orders by machine (McDonald’s just installed its own version of the kiosk in 40 stores nationwide). According to a recent report, some kiosks even allow citizens to elect their government electronically; e-voting terminals are scheduled for release across Ireland in time for the 2004 local and European elections.

Clearly this technology is picking up speed, though according to Lief C. Larson, group publisher of KIOSK Magazine, the concept has been around for a while. He notes kiosks play a role in such diverse fields as banking, healthcare, and job recruitment. Larson underscores their versatility as well as their growing popularity (he asserts his magazine, in publication since 1999, is read by every Fortune 500 company and an additional 10,000 businesses each month).

What does the rapid expansion of these terminals mean to your clients? Consider McDonald’s recent kiosk adoption. Reports indicate the restaurant chain’s intention was to “revitalize” customers and implement a “cultural change” in association with its brand. Its tactic seems well advised. The addition of kiosks reflects an understanding of customer needs that people are certain to appreciate. It also offers something the majority of consumers find very enticing: speed, convenience, and access to a technology that’s easy to use and understand.

Whether this venture (and investment) is right for your clients, kiosks offer something most every business can take advantage of: advertising opportunities comparable to what’s offered online.

As many interactive kiosks are privately owned, seeking advertising there seems the equivalent of attempting to run your banner on a retailer’s Web site, where content is king. But as Larson maintains, there are opportunities — if you know where to look.

“Most kiosks being deployed today are owned by individual companies,” says Larson, “and most advertising is from those companies/brands/products that are sold in that environment.” He goes on to say independently owned Internet access kiosks offer banner advertising and other formats, and a number of less conventional terminals also accept outside ads. “Take the large convenience store Circle K for example,” he says. “They have a kiosk in their stores called ZapLink. The kiosks do show advertising, and this advertising is from companies who want to increase in-store sales for their products, such as Coca-Cola.”

Targeting the right audience and choosing placements that appear alongside content that’s relevant to your product or service are inarguably important factors in a successful online advertising campaign. Given their ability to provide equivalent capabilities, could interactive kiosks be the next hot placement for Fortune 500 advertisers? With all they can offer in customer service and convenience, will some businesses turn to kiosks as an all-encompassing solution to consumer marketing?

As Internet usage continues to escalate in North America and beyond, there will always be a place for online in companies’ advertising campaigns. For those looking to expand their reach in a contextually relevant environment, however, interactive kiosks could be the solution they seek.

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