Intel, IBM Use Chat-Enabled Banner Ads to Talk to Customers

Both Reach Out to IT Community With Interactive Ad Unit

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YORK, Pa. ( -- If you thought chat was an early web iteration, think again. Chat is where it's at online. And it's going where it's never been before: inside ad banners.
A shot of the Intel's banner chat for its Quad Core processors from Slashdot. Click to see larger image.

Driven by tech companies' experiments, real-time chat is now pulling double duty inside online ads by helping them stand out from the competition, and by adding a direct-response element.

Questions, comments from users
Intel today debuts an online ad campaign that will generate real-time chat between consumers and tech experts within the margins of the banner. Called "4 Days of Dialogue," the marketing supports Intel's Quad Core processors with the live-chat feature running from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST for four days beginning today on four top business websites: CNET, Slashdot, Anandtech, and Tom's Hardware. Users can either join in with questions or comments or simply click in to watch the running Q&A session, although they will never leave the page they're on.

The idea came from Intel's ad agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann WorldGroup, and it fit with Intel's 2006-2007 goal of continuing to build the brand while doing a better job of reaching out to targeted consumers -- in this case, the IT manager community.

"As more consumers are going online, it makes marketing more difficult, but also more interesting, [so] as marketers we have to get smarter about how we reach them and how we interact with them," said Sandra Lopez, Intel's global business integrated marketing manager. "It's a balance between giving them compelling content and [having them] not thinking it's just a marketing ploy."

She added that the Intel developers are also eager to find out what customers are thinking via the direct dialogue.

Aimed at small businesses
IBM began running real-time chat in banner ads last month with two video- and audio-enabled banner units to market its Express Advantage suite of business-solution products for small and medium-sized businesses.

But even though the experiment has so far been limited to tech companies, there's a wide range of possibilities for other industries to use chat banner ads as well.

"It's got much broader applications," said Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence. "Tweens and teens and college kids use instant messaging all the time so this would be very natural for them." He listed financial services, retail, entertainment, and travel as just a few potential categories where chatting in ad banners makes sense. "The value proposition [for marketers] is that it creates direct response or lead generation in what is otherwise mostly branding," he said.
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