Digital players must unite to make ads work

With the race for the first interactive ad won, advertisers must work together to ensure the new medium targets consumers effectively.

This week’s much-publicised interactive Chicken Tonight ad on the SkyDigital/Open platform arguably marks the end of the phoney war.

While there is still plenty of bridge building to be done to enable cross-platform interactive TV campaigns, marketers across all fronts are drawing up their strategies as digital combat takes hold. Comparing marketing in the digital world to strategies of war perhaps does imply a loss of perspective, but many of the same skills are required, not least the ability to respond to new events and conditions.

After much rhetoric and posturing, it is clear convergence will arrive much quicker than many in the industry had expected.

Consumers are now responding to the technology of digital TV and the opportunities the platform presents. Soon, broadband and 3G mobile will act as further agents of change as available technology is reinforced by the creation of content.

As consumer attention fragments across new leisure platforms, so traditional heavy bombing gives way to more tailored techniques. All of us – broadcasters, advertisers and agencies – will need to work together to win the battle.

Undoubtedly, traditional TV broadcasters, which own the rights to exploit their content across multiple platforms, are well equipped. They recognise the need to adopt a three-pronged strategy: make the creative and financial investment to produce platform-specific content, figure out how advertisers can achieve their objectives within this content, and establish how to best sell these benefits to advertisers and their agencies.

Over the past 18 months, Turner has created content for the Internet, interactive TV, broadband ADSL and mobile phones. Advertisers and agencies have welcomed the innovation, but some have been more receptive than others.

A minority of agencies and clients believed the investment required in the short term was not recoupable, and until real opportunities were on the table, they would not restructure and build their resources to take advantage of the new media. The opportunities are now here.

Chicken Tonight marks the transition from a digital world where we speculate on what may be, to one in which we can work with what is.

Consumers no longer have to endure advertising. They will increasingly expect to be informed and entertained. Relevancy will have to replace intrusiveness as the price of entry. Experimentation will teach us all what works and what doesn’t.

One thing is certain: everyone in advertising needs to work together to create structures, strategies and product offers, and to offer customers compelling solutions.

If we don’t, then we will all face competition from unexpected and nimble forces eager to aggressively take over territory we had always regarded as our own.

Mick Buckley is managing director of Turner Broadcasting System UK

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