In September 2015, JetBlue airlines invited regular New Yorkers to steal their advertisement. They had put up close to 150 interactive ads – which actually were poster-sized vouchers at bus stops across New York. The ad encouraged the viewer to peel off the ad, and win a prize in return – roundtrip flights, free ice cream, entry to a sporting event, etc. Walking away with a poster-sized coupon under your arm is not discreet at all – but the participants did not care, and this also provided additional exposure to JetBlue. Needless to say, #NYCTakeOff was a hugely successful interactive advertising campaign.
Interactive advertising is a set of promotional techniques which employ feedback from its audience as a key element of the advertisement. While it may sound like something that can only be achieved through the digital medium, the above example makes it clear that it is not necessarily so.
Traditional advertisements depend on the customer being able to recall a brand from an advertisement she had seen somewhere. All it wants its audience to do is go to a store and purchase the item advertised. Interactive advertisement, on the other hand, wants the viewer to react by directly interacting with the advertisement – creating a two-way communication between the brand and the viewer.
Building an interactive advertisement comes naturally when designing one for the online world. But smart marketers have discovered that interactivity can be added to any possible medium you can think of – and it allows them to build deeper relationships with their audience, what begins as a dialogue is more likely to end as a conversion than what begins as a one-way broadcast.
Pros and Cons
An interactive advertising campaign requires a deeper commitment in terms of time and, oftentimes, monies. It is imperative that you have a clear understanding of who your target audience is, and where they will interact with your campaign. It is equally important that you have studied the environment the interaction will take place in – as this will decide on what kinds of interactions can be performed and what will necessarily be avoided. You will also have to engage a new interactive marketing agency alongside your lead agency.
But the payoffs justify the investments. Firstly, the viewer will have to interpret your content – and therefore, necessarily consume it. Unlike the traditional forms of advertisements that the audience can tune out – an interactive advertisement holds the undivided attention of the viewer.
Second, as the advertisement asks the viewer to respond in some manner – it establishes that she is the most important stakeholder in the communication. Any audience loves this attention. This also ensures that the viewer has something to talk about later on, and this will keep the brand on top of their minds.
Most importantly, an interactive digital ad opens another line of dialogue between the customer and the brand. The brand gets to learn more about its audience and learns how to delight them even more, and the customer feels like a stakeholder in the brand's success making them stick with the brand longer and may even turn them into brand advocates. All this means way more business for the brand.
Let us break down some of the ways an interactive advertisements enhance your business.
User engagement, conversion, and retention
Interactive online ads have time and again proven to achieve much higher conversion rates than traditional adverts. The audience is not typically having fun when viewing an advert, which is why they tend to skip them or pay them no attention at all. This changes with interactive advertisements – fun is built into the content. The use of cutting-edge technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are bound to not just engage the user, but wow her.
As interactive adverts are typically mini-games in themselves, viewers are more likely to experience the whole advertisement – rather than let her attention slip midway. The interaction also provides valuable information to the brand, allowing them to improve in ways that would increase customer retention.
Brand Awareness and Recall
We have seen that viewers who have experienced an interactive advertisement have much stronger recall of the brand vis-à-vis viewers who have seen a traditional advertisement. The reason for this is easy to understand – interactive advertisements engage the audience for longer durations. The prolonged exposure directly results in higher brand awareness and recall. Further, the fun element distracts the viewer from the fact that they are interacting with an advertisement – but they still register the brand with which they are having this fun interaction with. Automatically associating these happy memories with the brand in question.
While interactive advertising is increasingly more popular, it is still relatively rare for brands to invest in such campaigns. This allows any brand who does choose to go this way stand out not just to the target audience but also to other businesses. It is a way of demonstrating your willingness to innovate and deploy non-traditional, sophisticated strategies in the interest of the consumer.
A recent example of this is the success that Tuia tasted through its interactive advertising campaign complimenting its unique offering.
The Art of Possible
Imagine this: On every weekday, Simran reads a well-known newspaper online. The newspaper is well aware of the sections she spends most of her time on - arts and culture. Sometimes she may read an opinion piece as well.
These interactions have provided the newspaper with enough data to know that every interaction they have with Simran has to be focused on Arts and Culture. Send her emails or messages about art exhibitions or film reviews – not about the stock market or political commentary.
The newspaper is also aware that Simran typically reads the newspaper at around 9 am - when she travels to her office. This is the time the message is sent and reminds her to continue her daily newspaper reading ritual.
This is interactive marketing – responding to what the customer is telling you, responding in a manner that respects who they are as individuals. No more can brands have a one-way interaction with their consumers; the best experiences are delivered through a dynamic two-way conversation.
Messaging is only one of the ways the newspaper can interact with Simran. Some of the ways that are currently popular include:
Messaging: Through many different messaging platforms like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp etc. Messaging turns marketing into a two-way conversation with rich data that can be analyzed to learn about the customer’s desires and behaviors. Remember that each interaction is a data point that teaches you something about the customer. This data can be used to build chatbots.
Chatbots: Computer programs with human personality are becoming the primary tool for interactive marketing online. These bots have access to great amounts of information and can hold an intelligent conversation with the customer regarding the brand offerings, and assist her with the purchase. These chatbots are now also getting a physical form that responds to voice commands.
Voice commands: Smart speakers and virtual reality allow brands a unique opportunity to build marketing experiences around voice interactions. Now is the time to decide what your brand sounds like – feminine or masculine, submissive or authoritative, booming or subservient? Voice and virtual reality is the future of interactive marketing.
While technology has changed all facets of life and marketing channel, it is important for the marketer to think creatively to take full advantage of the changes and new opportunities. It is not just the digital marketing that has become interactive, even print media has learned new tricks. As a marketer, you need to start thinking of how to involve the customer in every interaction you have with her, rather than worry about how you will feed her your marketing message.