Editorial: Going interactive

The entire communications industry is understandably psyched over the uncertain impact - though certain arrival - of interactive, two-way connections between marketers and consumers.While some may shudder at the prospect of this virtual communications chaos, there are others, such as those...

The entire communications industry is understandably psyched over the uncertain impact – though certain arrival – of interactive, two-way connections between marketers and consumers.

While some may shudder at the prospect of this virtual communications chaos, there are others, such as those covered in a variety of stories in a special report on interactive marketing in this issue who have decided to jump in, explore and experience.

Meanwhile, in the ad agency community, which has long been the centre of commercial communications, the message is coming through that interactivity is more than idle challenge.

A growing number, like Bruce Philp, executive creative director of Vickers & Benson Advertising, believe interactivity will redefine the agency business. Philp comes to this conclusion after having immersed himself in the interactive world for the past year and a half. He’s investigated leading software systems, explored cd-roms, and has hooked himself into an online Internet service.

‘I decided to get wired and see what was going on,’ Philp says. ‘All I can say is that it just blew my mind. What staggered me was not so much what I saw at the moment, but, rather, what I saw as the implications for people who make their living in the persuasion business.

‘I recognized quickly that we’re fast approaching a universe in which consumers will be choosing and shaping their own media.

‘People will be determining how much commercialism they can tolerate. It will no longer be a matter of watching your commercial in order to see L.A. Law. People will be able to watch L.A. Law and not your commercial.’

Philp believes that in such an environment consumers’ receptivity to commercial messages will be directly proportionate to the amount of value those messages give back to the consumer.

‘The act of communications will become transactional as well as infomational in the interactive world,’ Philp says. ‘This brings in a whole new variable to advertising. It means that we will be selling and providing information at the same time.’

Philp says the broader implications for the advertising industry are the effects he sees on the creative process.

‘There will always be a need for image. People still need a reason to pay $200 for a pair of running shoes. If anything, creative will need to reach new heights.

‘Consumers may be able to avoid you, but they’ll continue to want to buy your products or services, and great creative can make them want to do that.’

Philp believes the public is certainly sending the signals that they’re ready to embrace a new communications relationship. They want the transactional capability, and they want to be able to choose their own media, he says.

It’s now up to the communicators to craft the right messages.

‘We, as communicators, have no manual to follow at the moment, and I have a feeling that a new [Bill] Bernbach or [David] Ogilvy is waiting somewhere to jump out from among us to show us the way.

‘About the only thing I feel certain of for now, is that if you’re in this business to communicate, to persuade, the future is bright.

‘If, however, you’re in it to make ads, you’d better think about how to get out of it.’