What must the advertising world have thought when television burst on the scene? Imagine being among the first to create ads with sound and motion – not just re-purposed print layouts. You can almost hear the objections. “What? Are you crazy? It’s too expensive. We don’t have the skills. The print model works; why should we meddle with success?” Faced with the reality of learning new technologies, strategies and tactics, our predecessors must have felt a stab of terror.
But television advertising succeeded, of course. Agencies eventually learned to embrace the possibilities of the new medium. And viewers found themselves engaged at a level far beyond what they experienced with print advertising.
You can see where I’m headed with this. We find ourselves in the midst of another drastic shift in the world of media. The Internet has introduced the attributes of interactivity and control, and consumers’ expectations are quickly changing. The iPod and TiVo have changed the way we look at music and television, and the rate of change accelerates as production and distribution of new content continue to evolve.
Again, some advertisers find the changes terrifying. Interactivity? Consumer control? Optimization? Technology? We haven’t traditionally associated these terms with advertising. Whether anyone likes it or not, advertisers must not only accept this new reality, but must embrace it to succeed.
I can offer you some good news. The new reality presents us with the broadest marketing palette in history. More than ever before, we can combine the positive attributes of every previous form of media, while adding to the mix relevance, interactivity, portability, personalization, and optimization to create immersive, engaging customer experiences. We can narrow the top of the customer funnel, reaching only our target customers – and then guide them through the purchase process, one step at a time. The capabilities of new media obliterate the limited parameters of print and television … and promise to take us to unimagined creative experiences.
So what do we do as marketers? Before anything else, we must stop placing television at the strategic center of our ideas. The 15- and 30-second spots evolved within now-outdated parameters that seem almost ludicrous in today’s interactive environment. We must create customer experiences around the new media attributes available to us and to the consumer – attributes like interactivity and choice. And we must tailor our message to be effective in the medium where it appears. The print ad and the 30-second spot will remain, but they now share the stage with a full cast of evolving new formats that will continue challenging our creativity, sense of innovation and commitment to the customer.
When this theory comes to life, an intricate tapestry of targeted, progressive advertising emerges. Consider our client Carnival Cruise Lines, and the launch of their first-of-its-kind online destination site, FunShipIsland.com. FunShipIsland.com is a virtual world where you can cavort with dolphins, careen down a water slide, or hunt for seashells as you get a taste of a Carnival vacation. FunShipIsland.com addresses the increasing number of travelers who use the Web to research their vacation options.
FunShipIsland.com recognizes the customers’ emotions and taps into the idea that the process of researching vacation options can and should be fun, building anticipation each stop of the way. Instead of simply giving customers pricing and itinerary details, Carnival creates an immersive experience that places the company high on a traveler’s vacation consideration list. The customer experience is further extended through features that reveal themselves as delightful surprises inside the virtual island. FunShipIsland.com follows the customer via a screen saver on their desktop, ring tones on their mobile phone, or music on their iPod.p>FunShipIsland.com provides a glimpse into where digital marketing is headed: surrounding the consumer with a branded digital experience. Carnival and other early innovators provide examples of what surely will be an accelerating trend, in which the digital channel occupies the center of marketing strategies.
Here are a few predictions. Increasingly, the digital channel will occupy the center of marketing strategies. The interactive environment will host the central expression of a brand, and all other media will work to drive customers into that experience. The changes of the previous decade will pale in comparison to those of the next, as interactive video, mobile media and immersive gaming challenge us to find new perspectives, frameworks and standards.
We live in a transformational era in advertising, much to our good fortune. I suggest we welcome these changes for what they are: a fantastic opportunity to redefine the customer experience. What more could you want?
Dave Friedman, President of the Central Region for Avenue A | Razorfish, is a monthly contributor to CHIEF MARKETER. Contact him at Dave.Friedman@avenuea-razorfish.com.