Report Shows Marketers Stick with Proven Interactive Media

Mobile, RSS and advergaming may get lots of media attention, but many marketers are looking the other way. A new Forrester Research report shows that a wide spectrum of interactive marketers is continuing to bank on proven methods such as email and search, and experiment with rich media and new forms of targeting. Yet most are hesitant to try RSS, blogs, social networking, mobile and in-game ads.

“We certainly found the channels that seemed to get the most curiosity…are not necessarily the ones that marketers are willing to experiment with,” concluded Forrester senior analyst Shar VanBoskirk, author of the recent “Interactive Marketing Channels to Watch in 2006” report. The study looks at media plans and usage of 259 marketers from industries including Financial Services, Retail, Media and Communications, Consumer Products, Travel and Leisure, as well as Business Equipment, Technology and Services.

E-mail, search marketing and behavioral targeting came out on top as the channels most marketers either use currently or anticipate using. Ninety-three percent use or plan on using email in their marketing efforts, 80 percent use or plan to use search, and 73 percent employ or plan on employing behavioral targeting. Contextual targeting comes in at 69 percent, while 67 percent said they use or expect to use rich media email or rich media display ads.

Though they may be the subject of many a news story, emerging media channels fared worse in the minds of marketers. Just over 50 percent use or plan to use blogs or social networks, 47 percent use or plan to use RSS, 43 percent go or have gone mobile, and 28 percent are doing or plan on doing advergaming or in-game ads. Forty-two percent of participants described their companies as aggressive when it comes to investing in marketing technology, while 58 did not.

Blogs and social networking, suggested VanBoskirk, are often portrayed as potentially “disruptive” to companies. So, compared to other newer channels, marketers are more apt to use these media, in part because they feel they have to in order to counteract negative publicity from blogs or other consumer-generated media and social networking sites.

As for mobile, RSS and advergames or in-game ads, marketers cite several reasons for holding off on exploring these channels. Some want to focus on getting the more tried-and-true methods like email or their Web sites right before experimenting with something new. Others say not enough of their target audiences engage in these media to make them worthwhile marketing vehicles. Others say it’s simply a matter of constrained resources, both budget- and people-wise.

One marketer is quoted in the report as opining, “The intention to test new media is good, but it means a budget tradeoff. Do you spend money testing something new or go with what you know works? It’s a big mistake to move into multiple interactive channels without having a clear Internet strategy first.”

VanBoskirk, however, sees such hesitancy as a missed opportunity, particularly for marketers whose competitors have not embraced a particular channel. For instance, she envisions a financial services firm developing an advergame to help educate customers about how to use ATMs or online banking services. “It would be very easy to be a unique voice in those channels,” she added.

Though more than 80 percent of all marketer segments are or will use email and over 70 percent say the same of search, some marketer verticals have taken to new channels more than others according to the report. Over 80 percent of consumer products firms use or plan to use rich media email. Media and communications marketers are also early adopters with over 70 using or planning to use blogs and social networking. Around the same amount said they employ or will employ mobile.

Over 60 percent of the two groups are using or anticipate using RSS, and over 40 percent use or plan on using advergames or in-game ads. In addition, over 80 percent of media and communications and retail marketers use or will use behavioral targeting. Financial services and business equipment, technology and services marketers are least adoptive of all methods.

Among business-to-business (B2B) marketers there is a “big interest in how to use email and search in a B2B context…and how rich media can apply in their industry,” noted VanBoskirk, who believes that rich media could be used well by B2B marketers needing to provide detailed product descriptions.

How can marketers best analyze new media channels? The report recommends they “create a channel innovation team.” It suggests they start by learning more about different forms of online ad targeting which “improves the cost-efficiency of existing online advertising efforts by helping to identify more, lower-priced inventory.” And, although the report suggests marketers monitor online buzz and slowly test blogs, RSS and other emerging media, it directs marketers to “Let RSS, blogs and podcasting simmer on the back burner.”

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