Worldwide Advertising: A marketer’s guide to multimedia - It’s exhaustive, dynamic and operates differently from other media Mark Wilson explains why integrating the Internet into a corporate marketing strategy can be rewarding, yet comple

Companies face some compelling opportunities - and challenges - as the digital community grows. Forward-thinking organisations will embrace interactive media environments, such as the Internet, as a core element of their communications policy. Treated as a key part of an integrated strategy, interactive media can have great power and unique qualities, but the medium has to be understood for the benefits to be felt.

Companies face some compelling opportunities - and challenges - as

the digital community grows. Forward-thinking organisations will embrace

interactive media environments, such as the Internet, as a core element

of their communications policy. Treated as a key part of an integrated

strategy, interactive media can have great power and unique qualities,

but the medium has to be understood for the benefits to be felt.



Global markets open up to those who use the Internet to deliver their

messages. Small companies can adopt loud voices. And the notion of what

constitutes a multinational company becomes blurred as the basis of

mass-messaging changes.



In many ways, the pace of development and the scope of the interactive

audience is a restraint, rather than a catalyst, to its full integration

into a communication strategy.



I spend an increasing amount of time advising clients how to integrate

interactive media into their advertising campaigns, and how to make the

medium work effectively. Recently, though, some of the larger

multinational companies have started to realise the full potential of

new media and the effects it can have on the business model as a whole.

We are no longer discussing simple integration but, in many cases, a

marketing revolution.



Take the Internet as an example. For a large company with existing

products in multiple geographic markets, the challenges are great.



Different brand names across different countries. Different price

points.



Different brand values and associations. Suddenly, the company seems to

be faced with a horizontal market.



The most powerful differential for interactivity is the ability to

compile messages to the specifications of the individual accessing them.

No two people should ever have to receive the same message.



As a result, many of the apparently insurmountable issues become less

problematic, but they remain difficult nonetheless. Those making the

most of the Internet must address issues about their company, brand and

approach.



A successful strategy for implementing effective communications via the

Internet involves a few key criteria, the first of which is to

understand exactly what the commercial objectives are. No interactive

specialist can deliver an effective product without clear commercial

objectives from the client.



This is the primary reason for the lack of successful online brand

development.



Agencies have been focused primarily on the ’style’ without a clear

strategy on what the messages are and how they should be delivered. And

the result?



Some attractive Websites that achieve very little commercial benefit for

their clients.



Next, decide which elements are suitable for this environment. It would

be rare to find a successful brand that uses interactive media as its

primary marketing tool. There are, naturally, exceptions in hi-tech and

youth sectors.



Developing a creative strategy that is appropriate to interactive media

is fundamental.



Work with experts in the medium and the results will reflect that, but

make sure the creative implementation is compelling and appropriate to

the needs of the company and the method of delivery. Don’t accept

production values that are below the standards of your company’s other

media work, and make sure that the technology is never an excuse for

poor quality.



Finally, be open-minded. The medium is not static, so as knowledge is

acquired about the habits of the customers in this environment, respond

to it and modify constantly the delivery of messages. Accept that there

is much to learn, prepare for the medium to evolve continuously from the

start and the response will improve steadily as your messages get more

relevant.



The overall approach needs to be developed steadily. Clients extending

their strategies to the Internet must understand that this is not a sexy

broadcast medium. People choose to explore the messages. They usually

pay in some way for the time they spend consuming the information.



Making tea in the TV ad break translates as total non-consumption on the

Internet. Consumers must be given compelling reasons to explore

messages: there can be no assumption of incidental consumption as with

television.



To make the most of interactive media, clients must review their core

business models. New global brands will develop for the first time. Old

brands will gain new values and opportunities to expand market

penetration. Umbrella brands, such as Virgin, will become more

successful, linking global brand values with local, and individual

consumer, attributes.



An interactive medium operates differently from other types of media,

and the approach to making the most of it needs to reflect this

fact.



The Internet is not a marketing medium, it is a communications medium.

Therefore, when developing a Web strategy, it is essential to look at

its potential, rather than re-implement strategies developed for

television, radio or print.



For example, it is unlikely that customers will spend time looking at an

ad. They will spend time exploring interactive environments that are

useful or interesting to them. These environments can embody fully the

attributes of brands and companies, but they must be carefully conceived

to deliver actual value to the consumer.



Interactive media offer a service to consumers, rather than an

advertisement thrown at them. As soon as a person interacts with a

company in this way, they should be viewed as a customer, as they are

using a service of the company itself. Interactive environments are as

much about building relationships as delivering marketing messages.



Organisations developing successful interactive strategies also need to

address traditional issues. A Website with high production values and an

innovative approach to delivering its objectives is more likely to

succeed than a poorly developed and under-considered one. Likewise, a

developer who most closely understands the needs of the client will have

the best chance of delivering those needs.



Messages, while structured differently, need to be imaginative and well

written. In short, don’t expect the medium itself to deliver the results

- all the lessons learned from delivering successful traditional media

apply.



One last point - don’t hang your hat on the Internet alone. In many

cases, hard media solutions - CD-Roms, laptops, kiosks - can be far more

effective methods of delivering punchy, compelling messages. As with

other media, the key is to select the means most appropriate to the task

in hand. Soon this will encompass television and the new high-capacity

DVD format, so don’t view the Internet as the only way to go. As time

goes by, interactive media will provide increasing reach with a broad

range of delivery options.



- Mark Wilson is creative and technical director of Wirestation, an

interactive business communications consultancy.



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