The landscape of advertising has been rapidly changing, prompted by an ever-deepening and advancing digital age. As consumers become more and more acquainted with differentiated and personalized advertising, I’ve always been intrigued by the way that marketers and advertisers find new and interesting ways to engage audiences. One medium in particular that fascinates me is interactive digital advertising.

So what exactly is interactive digital advertising? Consider social media, online videos that go viral, or ad pop-ups. All of these forms of advertising entice consumers to interact with the content, either by sharing or “liking” a post, or by simply clicking on (or clicking off) in order to learn more about the product. This “invited” action on the part of consumers allows them to be more engaged and makes for more memorable, intriguing and actionable advertising than traditional advertising on television, billboards, etc.

But how does an interactive advertisement communicate in comparison to traditional advertising or static, digital advertisement (for example, banner ads that simply exist on the side of a website)?

To explore this question, I decided to test the effects of interactive digital advertising by utilizing an advertisement for a major corporation that was published in 2008 in Sweden. The advertisement was presented in three different versions: traditional/print media, digital and interactive. Utilizing these different formats, I went forward and interviewed a few different research participants to see what the take-aways were. 

Across the board, the interactive ad received the most positive feedback. The interviewees appreciated that it forced a meaningful interaction (i.e., a “like” option) and they also appreciated that the ad experience felt personal and tailored to them as individuals. The static, digital ad felt old hat and seemed to be more easily ignored, with the traditional, print ad being interesting but being totally dependent on the medium on which it was presented (i.e., a billboard vs magazine ad, etc).

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway that I discovered was the link between the medium (interactive ad) and the meaning of the ad. While most people in my interviews appreciated the interactive ad the most, what actually seemed the most important was how related the content of the ad was to the overall brand experience. For example, this particular corporation is well known for selling burgers and the like. The corporation’s brand experience exudes a sense of childhood, tradition, and nostalgia. It was revealed in my interviews that the advertisement worked, not only because it was interactive (i.e., forced a meaningful interaction), but also because the content of the ad was directly related the experience that one feels with the company. It caused them to feel something.

All in all, I realized the even greater importance of not only exploring new means of advertising, but most importantly, ensuring that the message and the meaning of any advertisement are directly linked to the overall brand experience. While interactive ads are a great way to engage consumers, it seems to me that the most important way (and likely the most easily overlooked) is to ensure that the message and the meaning of the ad creates a significant link to the feelings and emotions that underlie any company’s brand. This emotional connection is what the consumer remembers – not necessarily a simple click or a simple like.