Editorial: Getting interactive

It will be several years before tv cable providers move beyond the test stage and introduce sophisticated interactive services to a broad consumer market.Interactive tv might be the ultimate interactive marketing medium, but while service providers carry out research and development,...

It will be several years before tv cable providers move beyond the test stage and introduce sophisticated interactive services to a broad consumer market.

Interactive tv might be the ultimate interactive marketing medium, but while service providers carry out research and development, and contemplate how to raise the money needed to lay the necessary hardware infrastructure, many Canadian firms have begun exploring interactive marketing in a variety of other areas.

In this issue of Strategy, we report on two new direct-response infomercials. Royal Bank has launched two infomercials, one advertising car loans on the Videotron cable network in Quebec, the other, mortgages on Roger’s Value Plus Channel in Vancouver.

And Ricky McMountain Enterprises of Toronto has launched a 15-minute infomercial that is, effectively, a televised version of its direct mail magazine, The Ricky McMountain Buyer’s Guide, which is largely distributed in greater Toronto. The infomercial is running on cable networks in greater Toronto and other parts of Ontario.

This issue of Strategy also contains an in-depth article on the use, by marketers and others, of 1-900 telephone services, which were licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Feb. 22, and have been slowly catching on ever since.

In yet another medium, a host of advertisers are expected to take part in consumer tests this fall of two new kiosk networks being developed by Sierra Communications of Toronto. Sierra’s business plan is to set up chains of interactive kiosks in geographic locations that, because of the nature of the businesses or venues, attract distinct consumer types.

So, for example, the company wants to establish a retail-based network with kiosks in department store chains across the country and an entertainment-based network with kiosks in places such as music and video stores and movie theatres. Gary Chaikin, president of four-year-old Sierra, says the networks are cost-effective as they enable advertisers to create a single communications plan that can run on numerous kiosks in a variety of related settings.

Already, Eaton’s has agreed to participate in a test of the retail concept. It is allowing installation of kiosks in about 10 stores. Product advertisers such as Black & Decker and Braun have agreed to advertise on the network. Cineplex-Odeon will roll out a dozen kiosks in six theatres in a test of the entertainment network. Cineplex kiosks will, among other things, offer users a chance to preview films playing in its theatres.

A number of undisclosed advertisers have apparently agreed to take part in that market test as well.

The Amazing Video Network, a chain of video rental kiosks owned by Sierra’s parent company, Toronto-based Cinram, is being adapted so it, too, will be part of the entertainment network. Chaikin believes his kiosk strategy can be adapted to form other networks as well, including one with a medical theme established in pharmacies, medical centres and doctors’ offices.

Only a year ago, most traditional advertisers still seemed to be holding back from committing resources to interactive marketing ventures, but it would appear that is changing. Clearly, they are approaching the concept with more open minds and increasingly large budgets.