The Direct Approach: A step ahead

By using emerging media, agencies can imbue campaigns with a sense of intrigue that makes curious consumers want to interact with brands.

We could all jump on the proverbial bandwagon and use emerging technologies - such as sending messages by v-cast to mobile devices all over the world - to cross traditional borders. But let's stop and think for a second about who we are trying to reach.

Getting inside the head of your target consumer is no easy task. We are bombarded by nearly 3,000 marketing messages each day. These are not invited, they are not necessarily targeted, but they are out there. I know that in my rush to make my way through the bustling streets of London, I can't recall a fraction of them. As consumers, we have all learned to shut out most of these messages.

This problem has been something we have been trying to tackle for years.

Traditional advertising and marketing tactics aren't going to work if they are done in a vacuum. We can't just put an ad on TV and expect it to drive sales. Nor should we develop a direct mail piece that stands alone and does not use other media to support the call to action. We have to deliver more integrated solutions and we have to do it in the least intrusive way.

We have to capitalise on trends and use new technology to do so. But there's a balance to be struck. Technology can never drive a great idea - but great ideas can drive technology.

Enter emerging media - the next step in using digital technology at points of customer contact. Emerging media allow us to break through the clutter and actually reach the consumer in a targeted, non-intrusive way. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, emerging media no longer refers to the web but means the newest technology and latest devices that enable us to stay a step ahead.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2005 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, $32 billion will be spent on interactive advertising by 2009. Emerging media will be a major contributor to this double-digit growth over the next couple of years.

Today, harnessing emerging media means delivering video to mobile phones or sending out sound waves from an outdoor board to target a particular spot nearby. It is standing in Trafalgar Square and sending an SMS message to an interactive billboard that creates and then displays an image of a customised pair of shoes. It is Coca-Cola developing a uniquely branded event that takes the consumer through an interactive experience - a show of sorts. It is all about generating a sense of intrigue that makes the consumer want to hear our messages or want to interact with a particular brand.

Take, for example, a recent campaign for Stella Artois that was launched across the UK. The client knew it needed to build its brand among iPod-carrying bloggers in their twenties. To do this, Stella Artois needed a non-traditional campaign that would break through the clutter and make this target group want to interact with the brand. This was not going to happen using the internet on its own, nor would a traditional print campaign be successful.

The result was an integrated effort that took advantage of new media channels, such as SMS and video messaging, combined with online and print work. The "lost souls" campaign created a mysterious web ring that told the tale of a missing person, gave clues to help solve a puzzle and offered a £10,000 prize.

The campaign was crafted to reinforce the idea that Stella Artois is an intelligent, non-conformist lager. It was very much in keeping with the "reassuringly expensive" tagline. The premise was that Stella Artois is so reassuringly expensive that "you'd sell your soul to drink it".

Initially, there was no Stella Artois branding. Instead, the clues slowly unveiled the "sponsor" behind the game. For example, one of the clues revealed the map co-ordinates of the Stella Artois headquarters in Belgium. This sort of information began to appear on blogs and consumers started to spend time interacting with the site.

The print ads built curiosity while the website delivered the clues and a "virtual tour" that consumers could take. After consumers opted-in online, they were sent clues or SMS messages from the missing person. They were also sent a video on their mobile phone and told to call real phone numbers for updates. None of this was expected. The intrigue created by combining new and traditional media helped draw 600,000 visitors to the site from all over the world.

Using emerging media in this way will not work for every client, every time. This is where we have to don our thinking caps and use research to understand just how each consumer wants to be reached. Words and pictures are no longer enough; we have to come up with new ways to make consumers seek out a brand.

We all know that we can identify the demographics and psychographics of television viewers and radio listeners. When it comes to the internet, we can actually tell what consumers' behaviour patterns and preferences are. We can track the sites they go to, how long they stay there, what they click on and what they buy.

Now that TV and the internet are converging, we have an emerging medium that allows us to understand demographics, psychographics, behaviour and preferences all in one. This enables us to devise new ways to entice consumers to interact with brands. The emerging media of the future will allow us to change behaviour and drive sales in new ways.

However, we must also be aware that we can do major damage to brands if we use emerging media just because we can.

The fundamental principles of relevancy and responsibility still apply, whether we are talking about podcasting, interactive in-store displays or an interactive billboard in central London. Building curiosity and sparking intrigue in the most provocative ways - that's how you change behaviour and drive sales.

- John Minnec is the managing director of Draft London.

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