May 15, 2007

The Times (and Channels), They Are A'Changing

Interactive advertising as we know it is almost obsolete.With the Web, mobile-phone advertising and all other forms of "digital delivery" of advertising, change will come not in the span of 10 or 50 years, but over the next few years.

The greatest present challenge is the growing disconnect between content and where it's consumed. In the past, video was meant for TV and only played on TV. Audio was meant for radio and guess what, only played on the radio. Now, content in any media is continually remixed and rehashed across a wide spectrum of channels. Content originally created for television is captured, repurposed as a humor piece and sent out on the Web as a Flash video, where the audio might be picked up by a local radio station looking for something to talk about during the morning show. You cannot predict where someone will view or hear your message or advertising.

The whole term "interactive advertising" has itself changed, leaving some advertisers dazed and confused. Just as most major advertisers have finally come to accept interactive advertising in terms of the Web and search engines, the term changes to mean all these other channels as well.

Today, interactive advertising comprises any kind of two-way communication. It's anyplace there's collaboration, community  - whether it be between consumers or between a consumer and your brand. The Web's dominance in our lives has changed consumer behavior regarding the way they look for information or content. In retail, going to the mall or any other store isn't about finding something anymore; the majority of people these days already know what they want (and where they'll find it) by the time they get in the their car. Window shopping takes place online, eliminating physically traveling from store to store searching for what you want. Even in entertainment, the way we seek content has changed. We're no longer limited to sitting and watching a television program in our own living room. We can watch that same episode while commuting on the subway.

Customers have become Interactive Consumers. They don't simply take your brand, product, message at face-value anymore.

They have a loud voice, well-versed in researching on the Web. They are increasingly influenced in their decisions by social media and more likely to actively post information themselves.

These consumers expect to have things on their terms - what they want and when they want it. If you can't provide the information or content that they are looking for, they assume your competitor will.

What does all this mean?

Advertisers' methods of reaching these people need to adjust to this behavior. They need to first look at their website and turn it into their most profitable retail channel and their best communication tool. Put that content out there. Update it often. Provide the tools and content using methods that will work across multiple technology platforms so that it is available to the consumer whenever and where ever they want it.

Look to advertise and post on websites where people already go -  iTunes, YouTube, Flickr, Google Video. Lead the charge in talking about your brand on the Web. So few companies are even taking the step of effectively reacting to what's being said about their brand online (for example, the recent Home Depot and Kohl's incidents). The truly great brands proactively initiate dialogue about their company, and engage the interactive consumer as a creative force, driving truly effective content.

There is a significant advantage that advertisers and business will realize when they truly take advantage of these new channels of communication and leverage that raw, unvarnished consumer opinion for their brand. There is access to instant data confirming (or refuting) return on investment enabling incredible, never-before-possible agility in terms of targeting and correcting your message for maximum effectiveness.

We're in a time of unprecedented opportunity for those willing to embrace the changes that are occurring online. These changes are exactly like the tides: if you get on top of them early, it's possible to ride them out for incredible results. If you don't, there's tremendous risk of being overwhelmed by them.


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