The Vote Rocks

by May 30, 2002, 12:00 AM
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What is more interactive: a coloring-in sheet on a McDonalds tray-table or a 468x60 banner? Interactivity is not limited to the Web; nor does it necessarily need the presence of technology to transform a monologue into a dialogue.

Interactivity has been present in many marketing programs before. Collecting 5 bottle tops, sticking them to an entry form and mailing them in, is one example of a two-way exchange or interaction.

One could also argue that interactivity is equally present in most forms of “traditional” advertising. A toll-free number on a radio spot or a time-sensitive call to action on a cable infomercial triggers a response, which is sort of interactive.

That being said, when technology is inserted into the dynamic, interactivity takes on a whole new meaning, particular in the context of marketing communications.

Whilst interactivity may be a small component of an offline program, it is the very essence and epicenter of the Web – it’s what makes the Web work. At this level of interactive intensity, it not only differentiates this medium from the others, but more importantly makes it uniquely poised to take relationship building to a whole new level.

One of the simplest forms of interactivity is the registration of a vote. It’s by far the most popular tactic used by networks, advertisers and now, even musicians.

In a Jupiter report from June 2001, consumers were asked what were the main reasons why a television program spurred them to visit particular websites. In first place with 38% was deeper real-word data. In second place with 32% was a vote/poll.

I used to think that online voting was so simple that it was too simple. I felt that if voting was the best idea we could come up with, we were in big trouble. However, I then considered the impact of interactivity, when combined with the power of community.

The registration of a vote is an inclusive action – typically followed by an immediate response, which rewards the voter with the results and an idea of where they placed relative to the rest of the voting community.

Quite frankly, I don’t care if one sports journalist feels that Jose Canseco isn’t deserving of being placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A subjective sample of one just doesn’t cut it for me. However, when I’m able to participate in a 10,000 strong-vote which determines that 2 out of 3 baseball enthusiasts feel the same way, I feel a little more assured.

For the past 3 years, NBC’s Today Show has run a segment involving their viewers in a voting-centric program. For 2 of the 3 years, Today invited their viewers to plan a couple’s dream wedding by voting on everything from the couple to the rings to the menu to the honeymoon. More than 1.2 million votes were cast in the 12-part series. How’s that for effective reach!

As was recently reported by a major daily, Alanis Morissette is “surrendering control” to her fan base, by letting them vote for the entire playlist in an upcoming concert, which will be shown live on the Oxygen network. In addition, fans will be able to help influence other elements such as the stage theme and decor. This is a great example for a number of reasons. Through the power of a simple vote, Alanis is able to truly connect with her fan base and reward their loyalty in the process. It’s also intriguing because it demonstrates marketing integration done right. In this case, the power of technology and the Web has helped enhance a technology-free offline program.

A while ago, I mentioned a unit Lycos launched called RCADIA. It too used the power of a vote to help match various offers to the most appropriate target audience. Asking how many cups of coffee a user consumed in any given day, might reward the heavy user with a coupon for a free Espresso and the non-user with a slice of Crumb Cake at their favorite Starbucks.

One other interesting attribute about a poll-tactic, is that it is usually an ongoing initiative. It not only forms part of a dialogue, but also plays a role in helping to bring back users on a somewhat continuous basis.

Whether pivotal to the entire mechanics of the program or merely icing on the cake, the vote has been cast and the results speak for themselves in terms of the role that polling plays in the creation of a deeper online experience.

Rock on!

- Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, Samsonite, Embassy Suites and Cunard. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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