Padulo goeshigh-tech

Hardly a day passes without yet another story breaking of a baby bell wedding a cable company, a high-tech firm paving a new lane on the digital highway or a new interactive shopping channel suddenly materializing in the rapidly expanding tv...

Hardly a day passes without yet another story breaking of a baby bell wedding a cable company, a high-tech firm paving a new lane on the digital highway or a new interactive shopping channel suddenly materializing in the rapidly expanding tv universe.

But one thing you don’t hear much about is traditional ad agencies actively exploring the marketing possibilities of high-tech interactivity.

This is especially true in Canada, where crtc regulations governing the marriage of telephone and cable companies are preventing interactive tv systems and programming from developing as rapidly as they have been in the u.s. and elsewhere.

But at least one Canadian agency, Padulo Integrated, is not content to take a wait-and-see approach.

For the better part of a year, Padulo Integrated, headed by its energetic president and chief executive officer, Rick Padulo, has been seeking out opportunities in which it can begin offering clients interactive-based marketing solutions now, rather than at some point in the future when interactive tv finally arrives.

Perhaps, it isn’t much, but just this month the agency installed a touch-screen, interactive information kiosk in the waiting room of its downtown Toronto office.

The kiosk, dubbed Padulo Gallery, contains a complete history of the agency, including multimedia bios of all personnel, basic information on each of its clients and a multimedia library of Padulo-produced ad campaigns.

More kiosks

Continue past the waiting room and you encounter two more interactive kiosks, one running a marketing and advertising trivia game and another offering coupons for free agency services.

Padulo says the kiosks are a concrete way of demonstrating to clients that ‘we are serious about interactivity.’

But beyond the level of what might be termed mere high-tech gimmickry, Padulo is also moving to position himself as a Canadian leader in the areas of interactive research, point-of-sale and out-of-home/out-of-store shopping.

Last October, for example, he purchased four-year-old Tomacon, a Toronto research firm that has the Canadian rights to Joyce Julius. Joyce Julius is a powerful computerized research system developed in the u.s. to evaluate consumer exposure to event sponsorship programs.

Prior to its purchase by Padulo, Tomacon had been in the process of modifying the system to form the basis of an interactive consumer-research kiosk. The kiosk, to be located in malls, retails stores and other locations, would be programmed to tabulate data instantly as it is entered.

Tony MacDonald, former head of Tomacon and now general manager and part owner of Padulo Promotions, a division of Padulo Integrated, says he plans to begin testing the program, called the Event Site Data Collection System by the end of Feb.

Subcontractors

MacDonald explains that 43 subcontractors across the country have signed on to oversee and service a national network of the touch-screen devices.

As for clients, he says ‘we have five clients who have said `when it’s ready we’ll sign up.”

By early spring, Padulo hopes to get another interactive project off the ground, one that involves the co-operation of a number of financial partners.

Called Partnership Alliance, the concept is to install interactive, touch-screen kiosks in a range of locations where people typically find themselves waiting with nothing to do.

The kiosks, which might be installed in doctors’ offices, airports or muffler shops, would contain catalogues of goods and services offered by various manufacturers and retailers.

Gord Steventon, executive vice-president of Padulo, says the kiosks will provide consumers with the opportunity to shop or do their banking ‘while they are waiting for whatever it is they are waiting for.’

Financing

Financing for the program will be provided by charter partners and fee-paying advertisers, according to Steventon.

Initially, the system will not offer direct communications between the consumer and marketer, since too few marketers, at this time, are in a position to take advantage of such a feature. It will, however, include a printer to print out coupons, brochures and the like.

Ultimately, Steventon says that the system could accept a debit card, so consumers could make a purchase and have the item delivered directly to their home or office.

Steventon is also working on a somewhat different interactive concept in which a retailer might expand its product offering, not by physically stocking additional items but by marketing them via high-tech kiosks.

Thus, a retailer specializing in one line of business could become a virtual outlet for another specialty retailer. Product distribution could take the form of pick-up or home delivery.

While kiosk-based interactivity has its place in the marketing mix, Padulo says his goal, ultimately, is to establish his agency as a leader in the realm of interactive tv.

‘You’ve got to walk before you run,’ says Padulo, adding ‘these things we are doing will prepare us and prepare our agency for interactive tv when it gets here.’

Padulo describes agencies that aren’t exploring the possibilities of interactive technology as ‘dinosaurs,’ adding ‘they’re still bringing a knife to a gun fight.

‘The only constant is change. We are committed to interactivity as a corporation. We understand the technology and we understand the concept. And that’s where things are going.’