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10 Best Interactive Marketing Practices

10 Best Interactive Marketing Practices Mike Yapp

Multimedia provides different means of communication and multiple touch points for your audience. Clearly, it is not a single execution, but rather a strategy that reinforces and enhances the brand experience by using a wealth of media opportunities to make the brand message pervasive and easy to recall.

So, I asked myself this question: what will truly make these recommendations stick? What metaphor can I draw inspiration from that will encapsulate the ten best marketing practices and make them indelible in your memory?

Believe it or not, the answer that came to me is Bazooka bubble gum. If you have a piece handy, take it out and look at it. If not, then these virtual versions will have to do:

Bazooka Joe and engagement marketing

Interactive pundits say we've struck on a new kind of marketing, a means of communication that engages the audience with the brand. It's an original and unique advertising approach that immerses the customer with the brand, and it even lets the customer reshape and market it in his own unique way.

But is it so new? Surely, there must have been engagement marketing long before the internet. Something we can draw inspiration from, something that can guide us. And then it struck me, that moment of clarity, an epiphany.

Bazooka gum is the perfect metaphor for the ten best interactive marketing practices, all rolled into an engaging little cube.

Whoa slow down, don't start chewing just yet (virtually or otherwise). Take time to ponder the genius of it all.

Note the prominent logo positioned above the fold, no less.

The color palette is primary, unforgettable and easily recognizable.

And finally, check out the simple, user-friendly size, comparable to a 120x60 banner.

As you can see, Bazooka gum is a veritable poster child for a Dynamic Logic Study.

So let's get to those ten best practices.

Author Notes:
As National Executive Creative Director, Mike Yapp defines and drives the creative direction for all of Carat Fusion's campaigns. Through strategic thinking, fresh conceptualization and compelling graphical executions, Yapp consistently delivers great advertising for Carat's roster of leading brands like Adidas, Western Union, Macy's, RadioShack, Showtime, Miller Brewing Company and Ofoto. With more than 20 years experience in the magazine and internet publishing worlds, Yapp has earned numerous design awards. His background includes art direction for several computer-related magazines such as Mac User and PC Computing, and the development of websites for Ziff Davis and Wells Fargo. Among Yapp's awards are Clios, One-Show Gold Pencils, and most recently, an MSNEnny for "Best Branding Campaign of 2004." He was a Clio awards judge in 2003 and a Cannes Lion judge in 2002.

Multimedia provides different means of communication and multiple touch points for your audience. Clearly, it is not a single execution, but rather a strategy that reinforces and enhances the brand experience by using a wealth of media opportunities to make the brand message pervasive and easy to recall.

Take Bazooka gum for example, it uses two media effectively: the paper wrapper communicates the brand while the gum inside delivers on the brand experience.

But an even better example of the effective use of multiple mediums would be the global product launch campaign of the adidas_1 running shoe, "The world's first intelligent shoe." It used seven separate communication vehicles simultaneously -- outdoor, website, downloadable video player, traditional interactive ad units, rich-media video ad units, IM environments and email -- to create a record-setting sale of all the inventory in stock.

MSN homepage
MSN themepack

In order to view each piece, simply click on them. The only exception is the downloadable, personalized desktop video player; for that you'll have to visit their website.

Opt-in communication vehicles provide an incentive for audience participation while respecting the privacy of the user. A successful opt-in execution entices the user to engage and encourages the user to share.

So you might ask, what does opt-in have to do with bubble gum? Not much, but you do have to decide if you're going to heed the siren song of sugar and unwrap that pack.

Opt-in is all about our volition in action. Take the "Veronica Mars" campaign for the UPN network. The interactive ads were coupled with commercial-break appeals to dial an SMS code on your cell to hear the latest gossip from Veronica herself. Once the teen audience opted-in they heard five separate messages from Veronica.

The three-pronged media approach worked. It was the perfect media mix for the teen demographic that chooses to opt-in by the thousands.

Expanding Banner

To view the interactive ad just click on it. If you want to hear the latest high school gossip click on the cell phone.

One of the most compelling aspects of the digital space is the ability to create unique user experiences. This is why I came to interactive advertising. It just seemed so cool that one person could look at the exact same website at the same time as another and each person have his or her own individual experience.

On a website, this has come to be expected. In an interactive ad it is what makes the space unique.

Likewise, everyone who unwraps a pack of Bazooka Joe expects a personalized experience. How you ask? Joe tells you your fortune. Yours and yours alone. (And if you are anything like me, then you're boasting about your fortune to someone else the moment you unwrap the gum.)

But how much better would it be if each piece of Bazooka gum could give you a new fortune over and over again?

Enter the O'Gradiator. Developed for the Nickelodeon Channel, the O'Gradiator rich media ad unit was designed to create buzz for the new cartoon show: "The O'Grady's."

The O'Grady's cartoon show is about a weird group of teenagers and their rather bizarre experiences in high school. It's all about the smart-ass comeback and the clever putdown. The goal was to deliver this experience in an ad. By typing in a question the user cues a random video clip that answers that question. Ask your own question get your own answer.


All good advertising tells a story. Online, the only thing restricting good storytelling is time.

So how do you tell a good story in eight seconds?

Bazooka Joe gets by, by telling a story in comic strip form using from one to four frames, with images and copy.

But to effectively tell how big Dolby Audio Technology is, Dolby related its story using only sound effects and animation.

Using the simple nuance of a man walking his dog, a user-initiated lightning storm begins and the two pause a moment to watch the fireworks. In the most simplistic fashion Dolby demonstrated just how big their audio technology is and delivered on the tagline, "Dolby Takes You There."

Dolby Takes You There

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

A compelling offer or promotion always lifts response in an interactive ad.

Bazooka Joe doesn't miss a beat. Bazooka gum always includes an offer with the comic.

As a twelve-year old boy, the sea monkey offer was a big hit for me, but not much for my mom. After dead sea monkeys stunk up my whole bedroom, the bubble gum offers were decidedly not an option anymore.

Then again, offers and promotions are the foremost strength of the direct response online advertising. Vonage successfully employed the space to increase subscriptions to their VOIP service from 3,000 to 500,000 subscribers in just 18 months. Capitalizing on the large format and extra file size of an interstitial, Vonage made it easy to display multiple offers and products in one elegant ad unit.

The Voice of Reason

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

Always try to employ microsites and larger ad units to pay off the brand experience. It deepens the engagement and extends the brand.

Remember Bazooka gum isn't all branding, comic strips and fortunes. There's a genuine immersive experience in every sugary square.

So go ahead, pop it in your mouth and enjoy the experience. Ah, sweet.

But if you think sugar is fun, check out the Golden Eye microsite created for EA's new James Bond game. The game pays off the whole premise of this new Bond game, "are you bad enough" to take on Bond. By creating a series of questions that challenge your manhood, the microsite let's you find out if you're the tough guy you think you are.

Game: Diabolical Assessment

To play the game just click on the image.

Whatever you create online should be intuitive and user-friendly. It is particularly difficult for a designer to see flaws in the usability of their creation, but that's when a good UI expert can be of supreme value.

As you placidly sit there masticating your bubble gum, please reflect on how easy it is.

Bazooka Joe knows that the most immersive experience should also be the easiest.

Take for example the "Land of the Dead" super banner. Everything about it smacks of usability.

Note the position of a super banner, at the top of the web page right below the address box. There is no need to flash "Roll over to see the video." It's already playing. And, as the user drags their mouse right over the banner after they have entered the URL, the video expands to reveal the full screen experience.

Expandable Banner

To view the interactive ad just click on it.

It's now taken for granted that clients demand accountability.

CPA, CPC, cost per ad nausea... effective interactive advertising is usually measured by dollars returned on investment.

Effective ROI is where you find it.

A stick of Bazooka gum still costs less than a tenth of a cent to make. At two cents a pack, that's a pretty good return on investment!

Online, the accepted means of getting the highest ROI is through search keywords and text links. But who would have ever thought it would exist in an IM window.

The adidas_1 product launch (I mentioned it back in Best Practice 1) included branded IM environments. ICQ, the popular instant messenger in Europe drew a 21 percent clickthrough rate, which contributed in driving half a million visitors to the adidas_1 website in the first week.

Instant Messenger

To view the MSN Messenger Theme Pack just click on it.

The most interesting trend in personalization and brand affinity is the ability for users to take part in brand advertising. Anyone with Flash, a digital video camera and video-editing software can create their own commercial in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes it's fun, like blowing a bubble from a square piece of gum.

But it can also have a darker side. It's still debatable whether Volkswagen planned the Polo Suicide Bomber commercial or not. We could be witnessing the power of a disgruntled creative director. But nevertheless, millions have viewed this commercial online, whether Volkswagen intended it or not.

Always try to take in account user manipulation of your brand.


To watch the video just click on it.

Back in high school, I once saw teenage girls share a piece of bubble gum.

As a teen I thought, ummm, tres provocative! As a parent I think, disgusting.

But as an internet advertiser, it's the Holy Grail.

The only trick to creating send-to-a-friend virality is to create something so fun -- or shocking or provocative -- that the user will adopt the experience as his own and send it to a friend for bragging rights.

Throw in a competitive component and it gets even more interesting.

Last Valentine's Day, 1-800-Flowers wanted to differentiate their brand from the rest of the order-flowers online companies. Aimed squarely at the male market, they developed a strategy of empathy and understanding. What male adult between the ages of 18 and 35 doesn't like to play video games? And when they do send flowers, they want to send the right signal: "I love you, but I don't necessarily want to get married."

Enter the Cupid Shoot Out interactive ad unit. While the user is busy keeping pesky cupids away from the bouquets, 1-880-Flowers is displaying new bouquet inventory at every level and building affinity with their audience.

Pass along was a forgone conclusion.


As we blithely chew our gum, let's review where we've been.

For an interactive advertising campaign to be truly effective, or for that matter, chewing gum to be fun, it should at least contain one or a combination of the following elements:

  • Use of multiple media

  • An opportunity for the user to opt-in

  • A means for personalization

  • Story telling

  • Include a compelling offer

  • An immersive experience

  • An intuitive and user-friendly experience

  • A strategy for effective ROI

  • An understanding that the user may manipulate the brand

  • A provision for a "send to a friend" option -- a.k.a., virality

And remember (as I store my gum behind my ear) -- if you make it sticky, they'll always come back for more.

Michael Yapp is a high-energy creative director with more than 20 years of experience in interactive and editorial design. He provides creative leadership and inspiration to Carat Fusion's multi-disciplined group of visual designers, copywriters,...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: brandon johnson

2010, August 07

Amazing how some years later and this is still very relevant information strategically.

Keep up the great work!

Commenter: John Leavy

2010, March 04

Chopping an article up into tiny pieces so you can shove ads down people's thoats...do you think readers are this stupid...I only registered so I could leave this comment...I'm sure it won't be published...so long forever.

Commenter: Bless Bey

2008, September 18

I am publishing my first magazine and am deeply interested in offering interactive ads and marketing to advertisers.

Commenter: David Pershey

2008, August 13

Great point. Looking forward to getting to know your site better.

Commenter: Bonnie Singer

2008, March 04

I have been a TV producer in the advertising industry for many years and am transitioning into interactive. I find your analysis very informative. Thank you.

Commenter: marylou watson

2008, February 13

Interested in keeping abreat of current marketing issues and practices.

Commenter: Kilda vIMES

2007, October 08

Speaking of unique user experiences, i recently saw an ad for Coca-Cola. It was projected on the floor and was interacting with its audience, me.the bottles moved with me, followed me around, and i was making things happen in the ad.i was so drawn to this cool feature it hit me only later that I'm playing around in a commercial. apparently this is the latest thing in advertising- interactive interface. i checked and the company who makes these installations is called EyeClick. do you think that this the way advertisers will go next? because i can see myself getting hooked with this sort of technology.