Platforms Make a Difference for Interactive Ads

Study Finds Quality of Involvement Different for Web, TV; 'Social Contract' Also Plays Role

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Getting consumers to interact with an ad is always desirable, but just how much more effective does it make the ad? A new study attempts to measure how consumers feel about a brand after they view a static ad and an ad they can interact with.

London-based interactive agency Weapon 7 hired research agency 2CV in 2005 to conduct the study, and a paper, "Measuring the effectiveness of interactive advertising," is currently undergoing peer review and is slated to be published in Admap this spring. The agencies carried out 16 different studies on different interactive platforms, most notably internet and interactive TV.

The study consisted of a control group that watched regular spots and a group that was tempted into interacting with those same spots; both then indicated any increased enjoyment, comprehension and knowledge of the brand and its services, as well as how the spot changed the appeal and purchase consideration of the brand.

Quality of interactivity
While interactivity overwhelmingly scored above regular spots across the board, of more interest is the quality of that interactivity, the agency said. "Interactivity magnifies the communication's effect, but that goes both ways," said Weapon 7 Managing Partner Steven Hess. Mr. Hess likened interactive advertising to a "social contract," where consumers accept to enter the brand's world -- a difference from past advertising efforts that interrupted the consumer's life.

"One of the surprises of our study was that encouraging consumers to interact under false pretense, such as drawing them in with promotions they won't necessarily get, or if they feel tricked, can have an equally negative impact," Mr. Hess said. "It breaks the 'contract' you've established and damages your return on interest. Qualitatively, the reactions were quite strong to this breach of trust."

Other pitfalls marketers should be wary of include disjointed journeys between the trigger ad (the lure) and the interactive space it leads to (such as links to websites that are related neither to the ad nor the platform); a lack of a coherent brand experience because of content that comes from different creatives or agencies; and content not designed for the platform. "This is where platform planning comes in," Mr. Hess said. "Marketers need to understand that this is a creative platform for consumers to interact with the brand. It's better not to do anything than it is to pull out a poorly conceived campaign."

Platforms count
Platforms are an important variable to take into account. Comparing interactive ads online to those on interactive TV revealed that increased understanding about facets of the product or brand scored higher online, while the experience was deemed more intense and persuasive on interactive TV. While obvious differences in use of the platforms certainly play a role (that is, the TV's bigger screen and distance creating greater impact, while computers are more suited to manipulate data), the research suggests there is also difference in the consumer-platform relation.

"Television is very good at creating one-way emotional connections with its viewers, and in most households it stands on what could be considered an altar. This creates a parent-child relationship," Mr. Hess said. "The internet, on the other hand, creates an adult-adult peer relationship, so it is a better vector for rational communication. As interactive technology becomes more prevalent, the emotional and rational will begin to merge, especially on TV."

Until then, Mr. Hess leaves marketers with this thought: "If you encourage people to interact, you need to give them something of equal value to the interest and enthusiasm they have approached you with. It's about creating an easy, simple-to-use experience that makes it enjoyable for the viewer."
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