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
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
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
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
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
Agencies have been focused primarily on the ’style’ without a clear
strategy on what the messages are and how they should be delivered. And
Some attractive Websites that achieve very little commercial benefit for
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
Developing a creative strategy that is appropriate to interactive media
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
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
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
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
An interactive medium operates differently from other types of media,
and the approach to making the most of it needs to reflect this
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
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.