INTERACTIVE VIEW: Tim Ashton looks at five interactive ads to see how the medium is progressing

You're creative, aren't you? I can tell,' Jane Marshall, Carlton Active's charming chief executive, observed. I was enjoying the full, all-singing, all-dancing spectacular (otherwise known as interactive advertising) for the first time.

You're creative, aren't you? I can tell,' Jane Marshall, Carlton Active's charming chief executive, observed. I was enjoying the full, all-singing, all-dancing spectacular (otherwise known as interactive advertising) for the first time.

Somewhere between a sophisticated Teletext and a poor man's internet, interactive TV is a strange medium. I found myself getting excited about zapping out of an ad to explore a variety of related information, only to feel short-changed when the information ran out all too quickly. Consequently, there's a feeling that it promises more than it delivers.

Carlton Active and Open are behind this crop of ads. In some cases, it's a one-stop shop with every element being created in-house.

First up is an ad for Macleans Milk Teeth. This is tied in with the Baby Baby show, presented by Duncan Goodhew and Melinda Messenger. Apart from some bland, baby-related information that scrolls across text pages, the real novelty is a baby name generator.

Boys' and girls' names scroll through alphabetically at the foot of the screen, presumably prompting the viewer to resist a Kevin when a Keanu is an option.

This feeling of interactive ads giving the viewer 'something for free' is a common theme, particularly when an offer or competition can aid data capture.

Next up is Chicken Tonight from Open.

Open channels its video feed differently, allowing for separate 'film within film' footage to be shown. This means that a surreal ad showing a woman singing to a pre-cooked chicken becomes quite a useful recipe programme. The overall feeling is brash and somewhat frivolous. Probably just where the brand should be.

The AA is the best of the bunch. While there seems to be little synergy with the work that HHCL & Partners has created, the navigation is beautifully simple and the travel insurance section has the novel 'gift' of a 'calculate your own travel insurance' function. Simple and impressive.

Max Factor has leveraged its ad featuring a Hollywood make-up artist to give simple hints and tips of the trade. Using a full-screen glossy image means it doesn't have the bandwidth to show video but it's no poorer for it. The interactive element shows good synergy with the brand.

Saving the worst till last, M&G Unit Trusts has almost drowned in a sea of copy and cliche. Even the 'WIN!' button wasn't enough to save it from pedantry.

As Marshall opined: 'It won't win any awards.' But from my experience with this medium, that's not the point. Creative excellence is preferable but clarity, simplicity and relevance are essential.





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