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Interactive Ads: How to Stand out in Today’s Marketing Landscape

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Interactive ads are the newest way to engage your audience and transform your marketing efforts from flat, one-dimensional ad campaigns into singular, dynamic experiences. 

Up until recently, advertising was a largely one-sided affair. Traditionally, when a consumer encountered an ad—whether that involved glimpsing a visual ad on a billboard, viewing a TV commercial, or hearing a radio spot—the static ad relied on a short-lived window of time to make a lasting impression on its passive audience.

But what if a consumer was granted the opportunity to participate with the ad? What if the consumer could play with the ad, become immersed within it, shrink and expand, and engage in a dialogue with it? 

Discover what your brand’s marketing initiatives can gain by wielding the transformative power of interactive ads, with examples to prove that interactive advertising is the new frontier for engaging with your audiences in a state-of-the-art way.

What Are Interactive Ads? 

Interactive ads are essentially any form of advertising that invites its audience to actively engage with the ad content beyond passive consumption. Instead of offering something like a splashy video, soundbite, or magazine spread in an attempt to capture a consumer’s attention, the purpose of an interactive ad is to demand a consumer’s focus by involving them in the presentation of the ad.

For an interactive ad to work, mutual action between both parties—consumer and brand—is needed. By carrying out an initial participatory action, such as clicking on or verbally responding to an interactive ad, a consumer opts in to bring the interactive ad to life.

Consumers Determine an Ad’s Worth in Today’s Landscape

Today’s audiences value interactivity. If you take the entertainment industry as an example, video games and social media platforms like Fortnite or TikTok are growing their audiences with more steam than traditional media is capable of.

Over time, traditional media has begun to fall by the wayside as a result of reduced attention spans and audiences who long to be immersed in ‘experiences’ that take place across multiple platforms and can be shared with friends. Last year, in a statement released by Netflix, the streaming mogul even revealed that they “compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO.” 

Interactive ads, then, shed light on a crucial aspect of today’s marketing landscape. A static display ad served to a passive consumer can offer a lot of value, but may not always be the right fit for your goals.

The consumers of today determine whether an ad is valuable or not by the value it brings to their life: does the experience entertain them? Does it cause them to try something new? Does it prompt them to see the world differently? Does it encourage them to take a screenshot, share with friends, or post using a branded hashtag?

With interactive ads, each consumer has the power to shape the experience for themselves. They engage with the elements of the ad content that intrigue and stimulate them, and they ignore the rest.

The more engaging, innovative, and illuminating the experience offered by the interactive ad, the better.

Interactive Ads Enhance Brand Recall

Brand recall refers to the percentage of consumers who can remember a brand. With the surfeit of branded content constantly being circulating, ensuring brand recall is as high as possible is crucial for marketers. 

This is where interactive ads have the upper hand over static ads. Today, a vast proportion of consumers have developed psychological mechanisms to block out ads—otherwise known as ‘banner blindness.’ Since interactive ads force consumers to actively engage with them instead of simply passively consuming the advertisement before moving on with their day, interactive ads stand a far higher chance of being remembered.

“Interactive ads are a way to spend more valuable time with consumers,” says Kara Manatt of IPG Media Lab. In fact, a MAGNA Global study found that interactive video ads can drive a 47% lift in time a consumer spends engaging with the ad, compared to static ads. 

Occupying a consumer’s precious time is the goal advertisers are always striving toward. The longer the time spent with a brand, the more likely that will translate into a consumer’s capacity to recollect the brand and its characteristics, and subsequently go out into the world and make a purchase.

Interactive Ads Offer an Unprecedented Amount of User Data Points 

Because interactive ads can be engaged with in a variety of ways, they offer the unparalleled opportunity to collect data that will determine how they were received, which aspects consumers spent the most time with, and which elements caused them to bounce. From the moment a user begins engaging with your ad, you can begin accumulating data that will inform how you craft and present interactive ads to your audience in the future. 

Interactive ads add “a level of precision and complexity that cannot be achieved through static ads,” writes StackAdapt. While basic static ads allow marketers to gather data regarding impressions and clicks, interactive ads move beyond this, providing highly valuable information about how long a consumer spent experiencing the ad, which parts they clicked on, whether they replayed the video, whether they answered any questions or checked any boxes, and whether they proceeded to share the ad.

Types of Interactive Ads

There’s a wide range of types of interactive ads that brands have deployed to reach their target market in new and exciting ways. While some brands have shown tremendous innovation with interactive print ads, like this inflatable airbag tucked into a Peugeout print spread, or ads that call for physical performance in a public space, like Reebok’s interactive speed cam, our focus is on interactive ads that live on digital platforms. 

Playable Ads

One form of interactive adverts are playable ads. They offer a sneak preview into a game and/or app by allowing the consumer to try their hand at the interface. 

Also sometimes referred to as try-before-you-buy or micro-games, playable ads are most commonly found on mobile platforms. 

There are three primary components of a playable ad:

Lead-in video: A short video indicating that the ad is playable and prompting the user to click on it.

Game demo: Once the user taps a demo, they’ll be able to play a short form, full-screen demo directly on the platform where the ad appeared. 

Call to action: The CTA button will take users to an app store where they will be able to install the app on their mobile device. 

Playable ads have the capacity to collect user data so that marketers can determine how users are engaging with the ad, and how they can improve its potency. For example, if you find that too many users are losing the micro-game and not proceeding to download it, you can tweak the game’s difficulty so that more users are winning. 

Another benefit of playable ads is that they can be seamlessly placed in a user’s feed, making them appealing to ad publishers like Facebook who want users to engage with the ad while remaining within the app. After playing and installing the game or app, users are more likely to open it and continue to engage in gameplay, which generates higher lifetime value (LTV) players. 

Interactive Films

Interactive films give viewers the ability to control the film’s narrative, characters’ decisions, the viewpoint through which they experience the film, and more. 

A fascinating and successful example of an interactive film is Honda’s “The Other Side.” In 2015, Honda partnered with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy to craft a campaign to promote the new Honda Civic. They ended up producing an interactive commercial that showcases two parallel stories that can be fluidly alternated between by pressing the ‘R’ button on a computer keyboard. 

The first story is set during the day, following a man as he picks his children up from school and drives them to a birthday party. At the same time as this innocuous story unfolds, the viewer has the ability to press the ‘R’ key and gain insight into what this man gets up to at night: he zooms through the same streets in his Honda Civic to bust an art heist.

Through its interactive nature, the ad simultaneously showcases the Civic as a practical family vehicle, as well as a slick race car. 

Wieden+Kennedy reported that “on average, people spent over three minutes with the experience,” which is “an unusually long dwell time for an automotive campaign.” The cutting-edge yet relatively simplistic interactive ad wowed consumers and went on to win a Gold Lion in the Interactive Video category at Cannes Lions. 

360-Degree Video Campaigns

The new medium of virtual reality hasn’t only been deployed to heighten immersion in video games and cinema. Virtual reality and 360-degree interactive video are now being used as a format through which to advertise. 

One brand that cleverly built an interactive ad using 360-degree video was Boursin. The cheese company produced a short VR film that placed its consumers directly inside a refrigerator, for a mouthwatering 360-degree experience that could be viewed in YouTube by dragging one’s screen, on mobile by physically rotating your phone, or using a virtual reality headset. 

The Boursin Sensorium Virtual Reality Experience takes consumers on a ride through a foodie’s fridge, which is brimful with culinary items that pair well with Boursin. By crafting this VR experience, Boursin tapped into a burgeoning field to immerse consumers in a new digital experience.

Mountain Dew ventured into similar terrain with ‘The Professor Presents: Got Handles,’ which uses a 360-degree video crafted for the Oculus Rift to turn the player into a character on a makeshift basketball court. By being placed right in the centre of the action, the consumer is directly engaged in the experience. 

Mountain Dew’s VR film feels more like a sports video game than an ad, but showcases a large Mountain Dew banner in the background, so all throughout the experience it’s apparent which brand is being promoted. 

Interactive Display Ads

Rich media ads are created with HTML5 technology, and they stand out from standard static display ads. They offer the ability for marketers to combine different forms of rich media (videos, audio, gifs, pools, etc.) side by side. 

Google’s Lightbox ads are a form of expandable display ads that appear the same as any other banner, but grow into a full-screen canvas when a user hovers their cursor over the ad. This ad format means advertisers only pay when the ad is expanded, not simply when it is featured on a page. 

Lightbox ads on Google also draw on machine learning tactics to evolve according to their customers. They “use an intelligence optimization engine that tailors audiences based on previously collected data,” writes Instapage. “It learns which targeting methods have proven most effective in the past, so the level of audience engagement continues to improve over time.” 

Augmented Reality

A form of interactive ad with the capacity to reach a wide audience are augmented reality ads that prompt users to photograph and share certain effects, such as those crafted through Snapchat lenses. Snapchat’s AR lenses give consumers the actual chance to ‘try on’ the experience of their brand. This is a form of marketing that is bound to reach a ton of people, because the photo messaging app “has reported that, on average, 75 percent of its 218 million daily users play with Lenses daily.” 

Take Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo lens. The sponsored campaign enabled users to turn their head into a taco—and it broke a Snapchat record by amassing 224 million views in just one day. 

Augmented reality ads for Snapchat can be built using the Snapchat Lens Studio. One of Snapchat’s chief benefits is that users can send your brand’s interactive ads as snaps to their friends, widening your ads’ reach exponentially. 

Interactive Voice Ads

With the advent of smart speakers and other voice-activated devices, interactive voice ads are the newest way for brands to connect with their audiences using the power of the human voice. Interactive ads directly engage with consumers by sparking a dialogue and allowing a user to respond to their voice-activated device. 

Often, interactive voice ads follow a sequence that begins with the brand asking a consumer whether they’d like to learn more about a product or offering. If the listener responds in the affirmative, then they’ll be provided more info, or taken to a webpage, app, etc. If the user responds negatively, the interactive voice ad has the capacity to serve up a tailored response that appeals to different preferences. In some cases, this capability was shown to produce a change of heart in initially disinterested users. 

Interactive Ads Are the Way of the Future 

Interactive ads place the experience of consuming an ad directly within the consumer’s hands. The consumer makes the decision to engage with the ad for however long they see fit, and they can take what they want from it, while ignoring the aspects that don’t speak to them. Ads that are based around interactivity make for an immersive, intimate consumer experience that offers a value exchange: both the consumer and the marketer benefit from the ad’s interactive nature. 

Ever since the dawn of advertising, nothing has been more top of mind for advertisers than standing out from the crowd and becoming ingrained in their audience’s heads. Interactive ads are a surefire way to achieve this.

Cast the voice for your brand’s interactive ad today.

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