Digital online advertising is more than banners that appear on web-pages, whether static or animated with motion. It has to be, because the online interactive scene of the Internet has so much more to offer, and much more can be done to capture and activate consumers. Advertising clips are also not enough, because they usually leave people passive watching them. There is also no substantial advantage to playing a clip on the webpage than on TV because the company is still not using the online medium properly.
Ad banners catch your eye, grab your attention at least for a second or two, but they do not succeed at achieving much more than that. They do not deliver much information, and in most cases they are meant to induce you to click the banner and transport to another webpage where you may find something more interesting, meaningful or entertaining. The problem is that with time people have become used to them, often regarding them as a disturbance or nuisance to their main interest with a webpage. They can be truly annoying on occasion, over-riding text areas on the page and making it impossible to get rid of them. Surfers in decreasing numbers become tempted or intrigued enough to click a banner (somewhere between 1%-5%). They may even purposely ignore them as punishment.
This brings us to a new type of advertising that lets the consumer get into the plot and become an active player in it. This branch is still in its infancy but one can find some good examples from time to time. One such brilliant example is the Pleasure Hunt promotional game by Magnum ice cream (a brand of the British-Dutch Unilever). It is cute, dynamic, entertaining, and has an effective ending. (I owe my gratitude to a good friend who referred me to this gaming-ad, recommending it for a good reason).
I will not describe the game-ad in detail in order not to spoil the fun and surprises for those who want to follow the link below and try it for themselves. A few brief comments: First, it took me a little time to learn how to pick-up more bonbons on the way — I hope you are more successful. Sometimes, however, I reached a bonbon but couldn’t get it. Second, on some screens it seemed the full image didn’t fit into my browser frame (too tall) and it overflow. Yet, and that’s the main point, the whole concept was intriguing. The game gives publicity to advertisers in other domains (e.g., tourism, cars, fashion, beauty-care etc.) by displaying apparent web-pages of them which appeared a bit odd in a promotion for Magnum. But Magnum probably won’t worry about it — you cannot click away because the pages are fake, you are too busy running around looking for bonbons, and eventually you will remember the advertised pleasure at the game end. The beauty of it is mainly in the way the scene changes through the game story and the different topics add interest to the game. It is not a complex game; it should not be so. It is merely a little fun, and it does it well, not distracting the consumer-player from the marketing goal at the end.
I regard this kind of application as Engaging Advertising because of its ability to captivate and draw the consumer into the ad-application as an active player and not just observer or viewer. I think it is not truly appropriate to use terms solely like advertising, promotion or marcom in this case , in concern that it does not do this kind of marketing initiative justice. It blends advertising with experiential marketing. It is said about TV ads that even when they include “people like us”, when they involve sentimental scenes and familiar situations, and may be exciting, the viewer is still left outside and experiences it indirectly or vicariously. It is different when the viewer becomes part of the plot and can influence it.
And now you can try the Pleasure Hunt ad-game first-hand.
Good luck, and Bon Apetit!
Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)