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Leveraging the inbox as a destination for content-rich ads

Fervent media consumption has forever changed the face of advertising. Between television, the Internet and mobile devices, consumers are exposed to thousands of advertising messages per day. From the ubiquitous 30-second TV spot to the easily overlooked magazine ad, there is an incredible amount of brand stimuli penetrating the consumer’s brain on a daily basis. What’s more, consumers often engage with media channels simultaneously, challenging their ability to absorb and remember content — even the simplest, most mundane advertising messages.

In order for advertisers to effectively connect with today’s consumers, they must venture beyond relevance and shape a message that resonates with the way consumers interact with new media. With the growth of social networks and online video, consumers increasingly forge intimate and subconscious connections to messages they see and hear. Content is still king, and advertisers must not only customize their messages appropriately, but deliver them to the right place at the right time.

This tectonic shift has not been lost on the producers of most of our content.

“Advertisers and their agencies who want to engage with today’s consumers will have to start turning their ads into content. Ultimately, they will need to be able to produce content that is so compelling, relevant and entertaining that consumers will seek it out and want to share it with others,” wrote Geoff Ramsey, CEO and co-founder of Internet and market research firm eMarketer.

In his recent article, Ramsey says the new ad model must feature powerful content that is “embedded in the fabric of communities and content platforms where consumers are hanging out and actively participating.”

And where is this universal place that consumers return to day after day? Simple, it’s the epicenter of all communication and discovery online – the inbox. With almost universal penetration – 97% of US consumers agree, according to Forrester Research – e-mail is the most popular activity online. In fact, sending and reading e-mail is more popular than watching television, according to a study released by Media Screen and Netop. With that kind of devotion, advertisers would be remiss not utilize e-mail as a medium for sharing and shaping content.

From the copy to the images, e-mail content can be customized for a particular audience. If you are targeting an audience of married females, your design team can choose imagery and colors that appeal to that demographic. Likewise, if that same campaign is trying to connect with an audience of single males, the designers could tweak the copy and imagery to deliver the most relevant message to them. You cannot do the same with any other advertising channel.

Further evidence of e-mail’s reign as the king of customized advertising content is the increased use of video in e-mail. According to a report by Studio360, Java-based videos used in some campaigns achieve click-through rates 33% higher than the HTML version. With more and more users connecting with broadband and high-speed Internet, video e-mails are the wave of the future and will help advertisers deliver their messages to audiences even more effectively. Unlike television commercial spots, e-mail is the ultimate time-shifted medium. The messages never disappear and can be consumed, opened, viewed, forwarded and tracked more easily, cheaply and conveniently than any other medium.

From e-mail to social networks and mobile phones, consumers visit the inbox to chat with friends and learn about new products and services. Whether it is at home, at work, on the road or on the street, the inbox can be reached anytime and place. Ultimately, it is the foundation of all social networking online; it’s a place where customer relationships and brand loyalty begin. If you send a message powerful enough, you may not only influence one consumer, you may influence a group of consumers, as popular messages are forwarded to friends. Like social networking, e-mail offers a wide range of similar features that consumers have come to love — namely a destination for beginning and continuing a relationship.

The inbox is the premier destination for advertisers and their content; e-mail is perfectly designed for sending content-rich ads in the forms of advertorials, newsletters and broadband videos. Since e-mail can be targeted by behavioral and psychographic data, messages have that personal touch that consumers have come to expect. As the inbox grows in its influence, friends, consumers and marketers will continue to meet there. The inbox is the in-place that will never go out of style. Don’t miss the party — everyone’s there.

Dave Hendricks is VP of market strategy & GM of StormPost, Datran Media.

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