Let’s Get Sober About ‘Interactive’ Marketing

There are many ways to look at this phenomenon we call interactive media, but sometimes we take a few too many puffs on the pipe and start ranting uncontrollably. Let’s try taking a sober look at what we’re doing.

When we think about “delivered media,” we usually think in terms of the buying process — well at least those of us who are involved in any media buying or planning. By my little definition, delivered media is matter broadcast or shown to any audience at any time and for any reason — so that means radio, TV, print, Internet, out of home, etc.

Almost 80 years ago, our culture began a journey into a multimedia onslaught that history had never seen before. Before World War II, radio and print were the mainstays of media. After World War II, television came into the frame.

With radio and TV being “attention” media (meaning you have little control over it), a generation of GIs and growing families left behind a lot of the past media consumption habits. It began a new cultural brew.

This combination may seem somewhat banal nowadays, but it was a collusion of events and media. A new world map emerged, and a new young generation of American families valued free time and a spirit of independence for youth culture. They discovered something to listen to and watch most of the time.

This sticky mix of ingredients has snowballed into something we still don’t understand too much about. In many ways, we’ve taken the random, always-on, attention deficit enabling character of the attention media and just accepted it as some sort of media form.

We aren’t stupid. Well, maybe I am, but it suggests we do a good job of saying, “If it’s new and shiny, I’ll watch it!”

This is where we’re going wrong. Our attention is being consumed in great amounts by things that may never affect us, or we have no relationship to whatsoever.

Marketers who broadly and sloppily shove messages at consumers and hope for a result in single percentages are the other part of this self-deception.

One could say it’s a collective denial.

This is what interactive marketers face every day. An industry built on mass hypnosis: consumers and marketers alike, channeling all that’s unspecific and yet at the same time engaging in this world.

Look at how online video has grown by the mere act of converting a TV spot into an inferior format and resolution and cramming it into a space in a browser.

If 50 years from now we view this as a model, though I probably won’t be around to laugh, many will chuckle at the simplistic way in which we did all this video stuff and called it interactive.

Yes, some in the future may think we did wonders with the stone tools we use nowadays. Others may shudder.

I rant because I’m just so damn impatient. But that’s what happens after you’ve raised your mind on a fattening diet of radio and TV all your life.

Apart from screaming at ourselves, we must devote some serious time understanding what we’ve been creating and stop wasting money on this fakery.

Video interactivity is the new frontier. Technology and bandwidth are here. Let’s just get over it and start making it happen.

The longer we ignore this, the more time we waste in moving from our interactive marketing adolescence into full adulthood.

Meet Dorian Sweet at ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising on July 22, at Millennium Broadway in New York City.

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