April 2007 - Ask the Expert…Internet

The Golden Age of Interactive Advertising

By Timothy R. Hawthorne

Q: What will your marketing mix look like in the future?

A: Handwritten letters. Baseball before steroids. Gasoline for a buck. Any “good ol’ days” memory is sure to bring on a variety of emotions-some schmaltz, some regret, some yearning. For advertisers today, there’s probably some longing for the bygone era of a sane number of media options: TV, radio, print and billboards.

Today, of course, media seems hopelessly fragmented. But when you manage to wrap your head around the new options, you’ll find your plate packed with choices that’ll have your DRTV marketer’s mouth watering.

Among the goodies: streaming video (live and on-demand), video podcasts, mobile video and enhanced video search. They all have the potential to enrich your traditional DRTV efforts and extend your reach to the world.

Want to play? Three basic online advertising options are currently available:

  • In-stream spots. Although widely perceived as disruptive or annoying, users are willing to tolerate pre-roll and in-content spots as the price of admission to free content.
  • In-banner video. Turn your banner real estate into a video that launches on rollover or loops without user initiation.
  • In-content video. This can have all the elements of a scripted long-form program complete with brand messaging, product placement, demonstrations, testimonials and interactive opportunities.

In this brave new video-driven digital world, DRTV marketers enjoy a definite edge. We already use sight, sound and motion to persuade and motivate action. The biggest learning curve is consumer expectation. It really is different online. Here are six key points to keep in mind:

The consumer rules in cyberspace. Online is the ultimate permission-based value exchange. Don’t abuse the privilege. Be relevant, real, accessible and responsive.

Practice good usability. Have real live customers evaluate your online experience for ease of use and relevance.

Quality counts. Right now, viewers are tolerant of the uneven quality of online video. This honeymoon will not last. Produce for the future.

Create for the medium. Online ad space comes in an array of ratios-from horizontal leader boards to towering vertical skyscrapers. Plan and shoot for a variety of conditions. By the way, TV’s 30-second spot is widely perceived by Internet users as 15 to 20 seconds too long.

Offer variety. Keep your message fresh and new by creating a variety of relevant messages targeted to different audience segments.

Build community. Online is all about viral. People love to share cool, fun and useful information. Make sure you give them every opportunity to tell others about your outstanding product.

Timothy R. Hawthorne is chairman and executive creative director of hawthorne direct inc. He is a 33-year television producer/writer/director. He can be reached at [email protected].


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