Online Advantages: Interact, Report, Modify

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Conventional wisdom holds that some day online advertising will grow into its own. Believe it or not, the process has already begun, but people have to use all the available elements of online advertising to tap all the benefits. The problem isn't the medium, but how people use it - or more importantly, don't use it.

An online ad has three advantages over print and broadcast ads - you can interact with it, you can get information from the ads that tell you how they're working right now compared to an hour ago and you can easily modify and optimize them.

Many organizations have begun tapping into the first two elements - interactivity and real-time reporting - through the emerging use of rich media. While these attract attention, people will not realize the true value of online advertising unless they leverage these first two elements by making adjustments to a campaign along the way.

The combination of all three parts helps organizations create a powerful marketing strategy for online advertising. Let's look at what's involved in each element.

• Interactivity. Rich media means different things to different people. To me, it means that the user can do something at the point of contact - the ad itself. Out there on the Wild, Wild Web, it takes a lot to capture the user's interest. Rich media increases the rate of interaction by grabbing the attention of the user.

Rich media is a lot more than clever animation and sound files. For lead generation and customer acquisition, the best campaigns start the relationship in the ad itself. We have seen conversion rates as high as 50 percent for ads that offer value to the user in exchange for information.

• Real-time reporting. Using rich media, the types of information available to advertisers are staggering. Traditionally, you received information about what worked based on the people who took you up on your offers. New technologies let you learn not only from those users who interact with your ad, but also from those who didn't.

• Modification of ads. Click-through rates for a campaign decrease over time, sometimes after only a week or two. Fortunately, advertisers can counteract the decrease using altered creative, offerings, and special effects. This doesn't mean changing things dramatically, but just enough to perk the interest of people who have seen a banner three or four times and blotted it out. Modification of an ad can be as simple as seeing click rates declining, and changing a few words in the message.

It has always been possible to make changes to online advertising. But doing so with rich media, especially in real time, has only recently become possible.

The moral is simple: People lose interest if they see the same thing every day so keep it fresh. Today's Web users don't surf; they go to the same sites repeatedly for the same reasons. Although this is very helpful for targeting, it makes the job of an advertising agency more difficult. Only certain people are intrigued by a given ad, even one that uses high-impact rich media.

Traditional rules of advertising do not work in the online world. The Web is all about immediacy. To tap into the full power afforded by this medium, you need to implement every ingredient of an online advertising campaign. Combine these three elements in a campaign with a good offer and you will be successful today, not next year.
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