Andrew Walmsley

Andrew Walmsley is digital media manager at BMP Optimum and chairman of the Digital Marketing Group. The DMG is holding an exhibition on digital marketing at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising on Thursday and Friday this week (ticke

We’ve been hearing a lot of “New Frontier” stuff about the media again in recent weeks. Digital television is in the pipeline – and we’re being offered the opportunity to interact with consumers in ways we’ve only dreamt of (and some we haven’t).

For marketing companies this is a major development in their strategic business environment – and it’s going to expose hundreds of companies’ lack of understanding of the process of interactive marketing.

As we buckle on our spurs ready for the charge, however, there’s a steadying thought. In the main interactive arena of the Internet, 99 per cent of Websites are useless. So why should attempts at interactive marketing in digital TV be any different?

A glance at the bulk of existing Websites may certainly be enough to lull many advertisers without an existing interactive strategy into a false sense of security.

There are three main reasons why the bulk of Websites fail.

First of all, far too many are designed with no clear objectives. And if you don’t know exactly and measurably what you wanted to achieve if the first place, it means you have no idea whether or not you have failed – which is probably a good thing for some.

Additionally, far too many sites lack a clear customer focus. It’s no good wanting to interact with consumers – they’ve got to want to interact with you. This problem may be less acute for some categories of advertisers, including car manufacturers, where potential customers will actively seek out information about products. But soap powder brands and the like face a tougher task in planning creative strategies which give them any share of voice on the Net.

Lastly, most sites ignore the need to build in a learning process to assist development. Heaps of information can be gathered about what’s popular on a site, from tracking what people have looked at, to encouraging feedback to its operators. Most don’t exploit this.

So will the switch away from PC to TV-delivered interactive services provide that big breakthrough for advertisers seeking to draw a mass market to interactive advertising and branding campaigns?

The answer to that may be “no”, unless the three factors mentioned above are addressed, and lessons learnt by those involved in interactive marketing.

Certainly it’s true that at present the rigorous business and marketing disciplines used elsewhere in advertising and the media are too often absent from the area of interactive media. Without these, interactive media will never fulfil its potential – and 99 per cent of marketing on interactive TV will be useless too.

But I believe an increasing number of people will start to invest the time, money and effort in getting things right. And those who’ve gained that experience on the Web will be able to apply it in digital TV using all the tools available – digital teletext, Web and video. These skills will become critical success factors in gaining competitive advantage in the future.

Gaining experience, rather than making money, must be the key motivation for most marketing companies on the Internet right now. But for most advertisers, gaining experience of creating a dialogue with consumers in an inter- active media environment is no longer an option to be delayed – it’s a strategic imperative.

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