The Bubble Boosts

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Technology companies are bursting again, but you won’t be hearing bubbles popping this time. The value of interactive communication in mainstream advertising has been proven, and online advertising is once again the darling of Wall Street.

Agencies specializing in the use of technology to create one-to-one consumer connections, data-driven relationships and permission-based engagements are bursting into the marketing arena and beating conventional ad agencies with new and—most important—measurable techniques.

The direct marketing methods of the past, with all their negative connotations and their one- or two-percent returns, have been transformed by technology into relevant, personalized, and highly effective campaigns. For example, interactive games and contests that deliver messages directly to individual consumers—consumers who actually have something to gain by viewing, listening and participating in the marketing effort—are being embraced by the most savvy marketers. Instead of spewing mass messaging to a mass market on a massive scale entailing massive budgets, the world’s major brands now are using permission-based marketing to invite consumers to enjoy rich interactive experiences built around the brand.

Interactive promotions allow a consumer to drive a virtual race car or ski down an online hill while being exposed to signs, symbols and products that communicate a brand and its message. Alternatively, the consumer can enter a sweepstakes or other contest online as often as he or she desires, each time providing a new piece of demographic information that allows the brand marketer to better focus the messages it displays to that individual.

Traditional ad agencies have been more than reluctant to adopt interactive technology. The 30-second spot, however, just is not doing the job today, with competition for viewers’ time generated by laptops, portable music players, SMS and an array of other technology clipped on their belts. Most ad agencies haven’t yet restructured their economics to figure out how to shift away from TV spots and on to the Web; and, to preserve their revenue flow, they have been slow to embrace change.

2006, however, is the tipping point. This year, with evidence of the success of several thousand interactive promotional campaigns around the world, large brands are demanding campaigns that consumers want to be a part of and that can offer measurable results. The interactive promotion does both, and its results orientation will propel its popularity as a key marketing strategy.

The top talent in the industry is shifting as well, to reflect the sea change from traditional one-way broadcast marketing, to interactive, data-driven campaigns. In the past, the best and brightest creative minds found a home producing TV spots. Today’s top talent is flocking to interactive shops that are pushing the envelope with new thinking and technologies.

For brand marketing, technology not only is proving its worth, but it’s showing how brands for the first time can collect, analyze and employ data about the individuals who are exposed to their messages. Goodbye to the faceless, anonymous consumer. Hello to one-to-one, permission-based relationships.

The shift isn’t about to happen, or even “happening”. It has happened. We have entered the next generation of advertising.

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