Commentary

Column: Aperture -- Push and Pull, Meet Interact

After 50 years of pushing media at consumers, the advertising industry is addicted to that method of message distribution. It’s easy to do. Develop a 30-second spot, call the networks, send the copy, and you’re a message pusher! Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and out-of-home media have all provided us with the opportunity to push advertising messages to a target. But consumers’ demands on media are fairly simple: “Entertain me” and “Inform me!” Rarely is it, “Sell me!”

On the other side of town, the direct-response industry has always promoted pulling information out of consumers. “Call now,” “For a limited time,” and “Operators are standing by” are just a few of the lines used to prompt interaction. It all seems a bit unnatural, like Dr. Doolittle’s two-headed Push-Me-Pull-You llama. Pushing messages to consumers without giving them a place to respond, or urging a response from people who want to keep to themselves, doesn’t seem efficient or even polite.

Enter the Internet. Web-based messages have allowed us to put it all together — push, pull, and interact. Campaigns are developed and placed to stand on their own, as messages communicating the benefits of the brand. Geico is a wonderful example of a campaign that has taken a solid yet laidback attitude to interaction. The television spots are clear and stand nicely on their own. You get it right away: In 15 minutes, you can save 15 percent or more. All you have to do is call Geico and interact. Push, pull, interact.

The Web campaign is similar and even more natural. Branded messages communicate the 15 percent message, and if consumers wish, they can click on the ad and get a price quote.

The question we usually address in this column relates to the consumer’s aperture: that point in time or place when a message is more likely to be received. While the aperture moment and interaction are two separate things, we can say with assurance that interaction enhances the aperture moment by creating an easy path for the consumer to respond when and where they are most open to the message. A more interested consumer will respond. A consumer who responds will be more likely to buy.

When asked, consumers say that a two-way dialogue is a more powerful tool to motivate a purchase decision. One-way, or push media, is just fine for creating awareness, but sooner or later, the marketer needs to spur a sale. Interaction is the link between push media and the consumer that creates sales.

The push, pull, interact sequence is so successful on the Web that it’s becoming part of almost every media vehicle. The cable and broadcast networks have done a remarkable job at building complementary Web sites through which viewers can respond. Virtually every radio, newspaper, and magazine has a site that parallels what it’s doing in its traditional media venue. The “back channel” strategy is currently the best way to interact with pushed messages, as it allows consumers to request more information or directly make a purchase.

But we believe that eventually all or most media will be digitized and provide single-path response opportunities. In this scenario, there will be nothing more powerful than a TV remote with “response power.”

Granted, this model is more of a challenge for certain business categories. Automotive, luxury goods, and lifestyle products with an inherent degree of interest have an easier time garnering consumer interaction. In many ways, it’s harder to market products people need but don’t necessarily want, versus products people want but don’t need. You need soap; you don’t need a Porsche. That said, all goods and services can find ways to marry the push/pull dynamic with an invitation to find out more about them.

The digitization of America will allow us to push messages to either a broad or very selective target audience. We can encourage consumers to request more information and to interact for a real-time experience with brands that facilitates bonding like never before.

Steve Farella, president-CEO, and Audrey Siegel, executive vice president and director of client services, are cofounders of TargetCast TCM. (steve-audrey@targetcast.com)
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