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Because the interactive media world is so young, the lingo used is still being formed. But one thing is certain: it's different.

Following is a collection of terms agency media departments should know. This list, compiled by Advertising Age Associate Editor Junu Bryan Kim and intern Caity Olson, provides a good start for those looking to get on the information superhighway.


The ability of an interactive service to provide verification of monthly readership and interaction. This data can be sorted by age, sex or residence. Accountability requires media departments to set performance expectations, so online ad placements can be evaluated.

Adaptive branding

The process of delivering a personalized brand message via a consumer database and an interactive system.

Through adaptive branding, marketers can deliver messages formed around the priorities of individual consumers. For example, if a car shopper has stated that safety is his No. 1 concern, an auto marketer can start its ad message with a safety message.

"It's a more proactive way of direct response," says Martin Nisenholtz, senior VP and director-interactive ventures at Ogilvy & Mather Direct, New York.


The ability to send specific programming to specific households. A home equipped with a pay-per-view cable system is an example of an addressable household. Eventually, addressable households will be able to receive highly targeted ad messages.

Asymmetrical digital

subscriber line

These lines provide video signals into homes over existing telephone networks by adding equipment to each end of the line. ADSL can handle VCR-quality video-on-demand but not live programming or high-definition TV signals.


Computer networking that will permit cable companies to mix voice, data and video. This form of networking is perfect for the electronic highway of the future, according to J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit.

Authoring tools

The "art" applications available for creating programs in an interactive medium. Although authoring is primarily a creative concern, it's a topic relevant to media departments, says Don Peppers, president of the interactive consultancy Marketing 1:1.

"The more authoring tools that are available [in an interactive medium], the more useful that environment will be to marketers, and the more that medium will be in demand by consumers," he says.


The volume of data the transmission line can carry. The higher the bandwidth, the more data a line can carry. Telephone lines have low bandwidth, then coaxial cable, then fiber optic lines.

Broad band

An adjective indicating that the transmission lines of a network have high bandwidth.

Bulletin boards

Areas where users of an interactive service can communicate publicly with other users. Anyone can post a message for all to read; a reply also can be read by everyone.

Conversion rate

The number of users who buy from an online catalog or service, divided by the number of total system users. It's analogous to the conversion rate of direct mailings.

Dealer locator

Displayed listings of specific dealer or retail locations based on ZIP code.

Depth of message

The ability to communicate lengthy messages or information not available in most media. For example, an automotive marketer can display information on an entire line of vehicles.

Direct mail

In this new usage, direct mail refers to private messages sent through an online service to one or more specific addresses. The mail is accessible through the user's electronic "mailbox." Advertisers may use direct mail to send a message to a targeted group of users.

Full-motion video

"Real time" video, as opposed to the jumpy images seen on multimedia PCs. Full-motion video runs at 30 frames per second-double the speed on PCs, older CDs and some teleconferencing applications.

Full-service network

A term describing a broad-band system that will greatly expand the entertainment, information, transaction and communications available. Many full-service-network test projects, such as Time Warner's much-ballyhooed system in Orlando, Fla., are still being developed.

Homes passed

Homes that are connected or could be connected to a local cable or telephone system because the feeder lines are in the immediate area.

Homes wired

Homes that actually subscribe to local cable or phone lines.

Integrated services

digital network

An upgraded telephone service that can handle voice conversation, fax and computer data simultaneously over one phone line. However, ISDN has taken so long to emerge that it's in danger of being passed by newer services.


Communication between online users to other members of the same interactive service.

Response rate

The number of users who "open" an online catalog or service, divided by the number of total system users. It's analogous to the response rate of direct mailings.


In the interactive environment, software means content. However, according to Mr. Peppers, there are two types of software. Content software includes programs on interactive systems. Navigation software includes applications that connect users to content software.

Mr. Peppers believes the development of an easily used, multiplatform navigation tool will be critical to the interactive world, because being able to find one's way around an interactive system has been the big barrier of use to interactivity.

Not having an easy-to-use navigation tool, he says, "is like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant. You can't control it."

Standard interactive

advertising unit

The amount of space, measured in various parameters such as memory on a disc or number of screens on a network, that a marketer is allotted for an ad message. The actual size of the SIAU varies. An SIAU allows media sales staffs to sell standardized portions of a disc's total memory, much like TV sales staffs sell spots of 15 and 30 seconds. An SIAU also may include provisions for a graphic.

Video dial tone

Essentially, this is a term referring to phone companies offering video services. However, video dial tone has huge interactive ramifications because it would allow users to send a video signal to the original sender-creating true interactive, two-way communication. As a result, anyone with a phone line and a video camera could be a broadcaster.

Video on demand

The ability to provide consumers with on-demand video programs through a cable TV or phone system. Unlike video dial tone, video on demand essentially allows only for one-way communication: the server to the receiver.

Video server

A central computer that supplies users with video. Video servers can transmit large amounts of data in short periods of time.

Virtual VCR

A wired video delivery system that mimics all the functions of a videocassette re-corder. A set-top box will let viewers pause, rewind or fast-forward a movie or program ordered through the cable or local delivery system.


The ability of an interactive medium to record a user's activity. To develop true two-way interactivity, an interactive medium must be writable. CD-ROM discs per se aren't writable.

"If I have a CD-ROM with catalogs on it and I send it to you, now you can interact with it. But the CD-ROM makes no record of your interaction and therefore has no feedback loop," Mr. Peppers says. "In order to use a CD-ROM for true interactivity you have to upload some kind of writability into your PC."

These terms were provided by Digital Marketing Associates, Redondo Beach, Calif.; Marketing 1:1, Weston, Conn.; Ogilvy & Mather Direct, New York; Prodigy; and J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit.

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