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Taking part in the advertising process

A SIMPLE remote control device and a black box are poised to empower millions of viewers across the nation and radically change the face of television advertising forever.

The future of television is here and it’s digital and interactive and dripping with features that even the advertising agencies are having trouble comprehending.

Director of Murdoch University’s Inter-active Television Research Institute, Dr Duane Varan, says interactive television presents the marketing industry with a fundamental “new truth”.

Proponents of interactive television paint a picture of an exciting new world where viewers will be able to order fast food, seek information or watch the footy from 15 different angles at the same time.

Despite the gloomy reception the introduction of digital television received in Australia, Dr Varan believes interactive television has the potential to completely alter television, both for consumers and the marketing industry.

But this is a fast moving vehicle, Dr Varan warns, and there’s a real danger the marketing industry will be left stranded.

The negative press that greeted the Government’s digital broadcasting legislation has further muddied the waters for many consumers and where there should be excitement there’s just confusion and disinterest. Most Australians have turned off from the issue.

Dr Varan claims interactive television presents the marketing industry with a completely new paradigm.

“It’s a fundamentally new truth and those who move early will define the medium,” Dr Varan said.

And there’s a lucrative business opportunity behind the screen to embrace. It’s a chance for Australia to lead the world in the development of the applications needed to drive interactive viewing.

In its simplest form, interactive television will enable viewers to drill down into programs to get information or make a purchase. The biggest difference with interactivity is that, for the first time, the viewer has a choice as to whether they click into this information.

However, research shows that, if consumers are disappointed with the outcome of their interactive experience, the damage to the advertiser’s brand is brutal.

“Advertisers will have to do an enormous amount of research to find out what people expect,” Dr Varan said.

In simple terms, research in the arena of interactive advertising will cost advertising agencies and advertisers millions of dollars, and that could be bad news for the smaller agencies in the market.

“Clients (or consumers) will demand a return on their investment … and I don’t believe just anybody will be able to deliver a return on that investment,” Dr Varan said.

“Advertisers will flock to those who can. The small to medium sized agencies of the future will fin d it difficult to compete.

“When the Internet came along a lot of agencies were asleep at the wheel and a whole bunch of teens said ‘I can do this’, and captured the market.

“The agencies only bought in later. If they lose TV they’ll become extinct.”

But the agencies that are able to embrace this shift will go on to define how the medium develops in the entire market.

And herein lies the opportunity for agencies in WA to develop this technology to take to the market. If they fail, there will be a continued migration of accounts to agencies on the east coast.

But the market-specific nature of in-

teractive advertising suggests the local

marketing industries all over the world

are best positioned to deliver appropriate material.

“Globally, more business will go to local nations, so we will see a reduction in global accounts,” Dr Varan said.

“Already in the UK we’re seeing advertising agencies specialising in interactive advertising.”

Research in the UK, the most sophisticated interactive market in the world, suggests what’s called t-commerce is set to overtake e-commerce by 2004.

“The people who die will be the ones who can’t get their head around this. By the end of the decade not one advertisement on television won’t be interactive,” Dr Varan said.

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