Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Little Is The New Big.

With apologies to the Who and Pete Townsend, online advertisers have been singing the same refrain for years, "See me. Feel me. Touch me. Click me." But, as Los Angeles Creative Club director, Roger Poirier pointed out at the OMMA Conference last week, "Most creative--both online and off--falls flat."

While there may be some clicking, consumer engagement is rare and there's not a whole lot of feeling or touching going on.

It seems silly that, in an environment where interaction is everything, brands haven't quite found a way to walk through the open door. Instead of adapting their online communication strategies to leverage the power of interactive technology, they've been intent on using the technology to replicate their offline executions. But, as Laurie Sullivan discussed in Tuesday's MediaPost Marketing Daily, branded widgets just may be the big little thing that gets them through the door.

Personally, I think advertisers should kiss the Red Bull stained fingers of their API programmers. Widgets give brands the ability to bring something more than a just sales message to consumers. Widgets can engage them with a game, information, content, or any kind of interesting, useful or entertaining utility. And brands can syndicate widgets in the places that their users gather, like Facebook.

A recent Business Week article describes the efforts of A&E Television to publicize their new series "Parking Wars". It's a reality show about meter readers, so they had their work cut out for them. They hired a multimedia developer to create an online game based on the series. The result is a widget, distributed between users, and played on Facebook. Newsweek reports that in less than 3 months time it's "attracted more than 198,000 unique users. many of them repeat players, and generated more than 45 million page views." Better still, these little applications, that can run on a desktop or online, are relatively quick and inexpensive to build, making the risk small and the potential payback big.

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