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Interactive Web Ads Begin to Click

In the early days of television, TV commercials were essentially ads written for the radio. Actors holding a product up to the camera would read from a script. It took advertisers time to realize the potential offered by the new medium.

It is a similar story on the Internet today, as video advertising begins to take off. While the Web offers advertisers the chance to produce interactive video ads, engaging viewers' attention in ways that TV ads can't, most video ads now on the Web are recycled TV commercials. Web executives and advertisers say that isn't making best use of the Internet.

"TV is pretty much a one-way medium," says Edward Boches, chief creative officer of Interpublic Group's Mullen agency. "The Web, by definition, is very two-way and interactive. It would be a heck of a lot better if I could create an actual idea or execution that you have a role in, you can play with, you can change, you can manipulate."

Advertisers also can also easily monitor whether interactive ads are reaching people, by taking note of every click of the ad's interactive features.

Figuring out how to make best use of the Web's video capabilities is a challenge likely to face an increasing number of advertisers. Online advertising has until now been dominated by search-related messages and banner ads. But that is changing, as the number of Web surfers using high-speed Internet services grows. Full-motion video is becoming a viable entertainment option for tens of millions of households. As a result TV networks are putting more programming on the Web, bringing TV advertisers with them.

When the ABC network decided to air weekly highlights of its hit soap opera "Desperate Housewives" on America Online earlier this year, AOL persuaded one of the show's biggest sponsors, General Motors' Buick, to sponsor the online broadcasts as well. Buick -- like most other advertisers in the same position -- offered up a series of TV spots it aired on the regular broadcast of "Desperate Housewives" to run alongside the show's online broadcast. Using the same ads on both the Internet and TV offers a "nice synergy," a Buick spokesman says.

Some advertisers have found ways to tweak their TV ads to make them more suitable for the Web. To showcase its 2005 Accord Hybrid in a Web ad, American Honda Motor took a 30-second spot it had aired on television and inserted a software feature to make the ad interactive. Web surfers watching the ad can click on different parts of the car to get more information.

"Interactivity enhances your ability to be noticed," says Tom Peyton, senior manager, national advertising for American Honda, a unit of Honda Motor. He declined to specify the cost of changing the ad but said it wasn't cheap.

Alternatively, marketers creating a television commercial should shoot as much extra footage as possible to create a secondary ad for online use, says Jill Griffin, senior vice president of Media Contacts, part of Havas' MPG.

Procter & Gamble did just that to promote a new scent for its Old Spice High Endurance brand. In February, Old Spice began airing a television commercial that features a young woman dancing. Working with interactive ad agency EVB, P&G also created a Web site that offered visitors the ability to edit their own version of the ad using scenes from the TV ad and footage that had been left on the cutting room floor.

"We're still in the first inning of a long game with the capabilities of the Internet, especially video," says Mark McLaughlin, Yahoo sales director. The rising penetration of high-speed Internet access is prompting marketers to think about how best to make use of the Web, he adds. "Often taking their TV spots and putting them online is the first step in getting comfortable with this format."


Christopher Lawton, The Wall Street Journal. July 12, 2005

Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.. All rights reserved.