Interactive ads move up a gear

New media technology is starting to prove increasingly popular with advertisers.

This week sees the broadcast premier of Lowe Howard-Spink’s interactive TV ad for the Vauxhall Vectra.

While it can only be seen by the 2,000 homes taking part in the Cambridge Cable interactive trials, Vauxhall’s involvement illustrates issues raised by advertisers’ interest in new media.

Vauxhall invested 750,000 in four areas of new media: the interactive TV ad; a CD-Rom placed with 200 Vauxhall dealers and distributed to the public through Top Gear magazine and at the Motor Show; interactive kiosks which were also used at the Motor Show; and a web site on the Internet which can be found at http://www.vauxhall.co.uk/

The interactive software and graphics content was produced for LH-S by IBM’s New Media Lab. Steve Byrne, manager of the lab, says while more and more advertisers are approaching IBM to create web sites or CD-Roms, new media has to be approached as a solid market ing proposition if it is to work.

“Very often, new media is the idea of a company’s information technology department, not its marketing department,” says Byrne. “But just having an isolated presence on the Internet is like putting up a billboard in London and expecting people to go out of their way to drive past it.” Instead, he says, new media for the Vectra launch was part of the LH-S proposition that it is “the car for the new millennium” with a selling point of “empowerment through technology”.

While some agencies are trying to create new media solutions themselves, LH-S believes the market is too young for it to pull in-house the kind of computing power and production facilities it can buy from IBM. For the computer giant, the challenge is to convince agencies and advertisers that it has the creative flair, and a good enough understanding of marketing for it to be trusted with precious brand values.

LH-S head of new media Mark Dickinson says: “We’re feeling our way in the relationship with producers of new media. It is very similar to when we brief film producers and give them a script, you anticipate they’ll put some of their own flavour in it.”

In addition to enhancing the Vectra through new media, LH-S and Vauxhall see its use as a learning experience. “We have a mountain of data about people’s behaviour with regard to the new media,” says Dickinson. “Not only demographics and addresses, but also how they move around, what they look at, or where they log on from.”

From this information, LH-S is hopeful it will be able to make new media effective and not just technically flash. “Above and below the line does not exist in the on-line environment,” adds Dickinson. “You can establish a brand, and then in an instant move the consumer onto some form of fulfilment. But the brand will be diluted if consumers use new media to edit out brand value messages and only look for the electronic coupons.

“The winners in new media will be those that create advertising communication that people want to come and see.”

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