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UT ADV 391K - New Media Interactive Advertising vs. Traditional Advertising

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New Media Interactive Advertising vs.Traditional AdvertisingALEXA BEZJIAN-AVERYDePaul UniversityBOBBY CALDERNorthwestern UniversityDAWN IACOBUCCINorthwestern UniversityWP nw pt+l to the editor, nrinrmyrmms YL’III~~“L’Y, AimChrnm, Aqylo Lw, imdChvistie Nordheilm for tlviuhelpful fwdbuck 011 thisrrrmrrxvivtThis research explores the effectiveness of interactive advertising on a new mediumplatform. Like the presence in industry and the media themselves, the academicresearch stream is fairly new. Our research seeks to isolate the key feature ofinteractivity from confounding factors and to begin to tease apart those situations forwhich interactivity might be highly desirable from those situations for which traditionaladvertising vehicles may be sufficient or superior.We find that the traditional linear advertising format of conventional ads is actuallybetter than interactive advertising for certain kinds of consumers and for certain kindsof ads. In particular, we find that a cognitive “matching” of the system properties(being predominately visual or verbal) and the consumer segment needs (preferringtheir information to be presented in a visual or verbal manner) appears to be critical.More research should be conducted before substantial expenditures are devoted toadvertising on these interactive media. These new means of communicating withcustomers are indeed exciting, but they must be demonstrated to be effective onconsumer engagement and persuasion.INTERACTIVE MARKETING SYSTEMS are enjoying ex-plosive growth, giving firms a plethora of ways ofcontacting consumers (e.g., kiosks, Web pages,home computers). In these interactive systems, acustomer controls the content of the interaction,requesting or giving information, at the attribute-level (e.g., a PC’s RAM and MHz) or in terms ofbenefits (e.g., a PC’s capability and speed). A cus-tomer can control the presentation order of theinformation, and unwanted options may be de-leted. The consumer may request that the informa-tion sought be presented in comparative table for-mat, in video, audio, pictorial format, or in stan-dard text. Increasingly, customers can also orderproducts using the interactive system.These new media are no fad, and while they areonly in the infancy of their development, they arealready changing the marketplace (cf. Hoffmanand Novak, 1996). The hallmark of all of these newmedia is their irlteuactivity-the consumer and themanufacturer enter into dialogue in a way not pre-viously possible.Interactive marketing, as defined in this paper,is: “the immediately iterative process by whichcustomer needs and desires are uncovered, met,modified, and satisfied by the providing firm.” In-teractivity iterates between the firm and the cus-tomer, eliciting information from both parties, andattempting to align interests and possibilities. Theiterations occur over some duration, allowing thefirm to build databases that provide subsequentpurchase opportunities tailored to the consumer(Blattberg and Deighton, 1991). The consumer’s in-put allows subsequent information to be custom-ized to pertinent interests and bars irrelevant com-munications, thereby enhancing both the con-sumer experience and the efficiency of the firm’sadvertising and marketing dollar.As exciting as these new interactive media ap-pear to be, little is actually known about their ef-fect on consumers’ consideration of the advertisedproducts. As Berthon, Pitt, and Watson (1996)state,“advertising and marketing practitioners,and academics are by now aware that moresystematic research is required to reveal the truenature of commerce on the Web” or for interactivesystems more generally. Our research is intendedto address this need, and more specifically to focuson the effects of interactivity. We investigate inter-active marketing in terms of its performance inpersuading consumers to buy the advertisedproducts.We wish to begin to understand whether inter-active methods are truly superior to standard ad-vertising formats as the excitement about the newmedia would suggest. Alternatively, perhaps thereare some circumstances for which traditional ad-vertising is more effective. Certainly it would notbe desirable to channel the majority of one’s ad-vertising resources toward interactive media untilthey are demonstrated to be superior persuasionvehicles. To this end we present an experimentalstudy comparing consumer reactions to productsadvertised through an interactive medium with re-July l August 1998 JflURnflt OF tlOUERTlSlllG RESERRCH 23INTERACTIVE VS. TRADITIONAL ADVERTISINGactions to products advertised in a moretraditional, noninteractive format.CLEAN COMPARISON OF INTERACTIVETO TRADITIONAL ADSComparing interactive to traditional ad-vertising poses the difficult problem of ob-taining a valid, apples-to-apples compari-son. If the advertising differs in incidentalways, it will be difficult to attribute differ-ences to the media per se. The interactivepresentation thus should be no more high-tech than the traditional. Nor should thetraditional have superior production val-ues. Most of all, the basic product infor-mation presented should be the same inboth cases.To obtain a valid comparison then, it isnecessary to create interactive advertisingthat differs from traditional advertising onthe core dimension of interactivity but isthe same in other respects. We conceptu-alize this dimension of interactivity as fol-lows. Interactivity is fundamentally theability to control information. Whereas intraditional advertising, the presentation islinear and the consumer is passively exposedto product information, for interactive ad-vertising, the consumer instead activelytraverses the information. The pieces of in-formation the consumer sees depends onwhere the consumer wants to go from onestep to the next.Depending on the design of the interac-tive system, many modes of traversal arepossible. One major possibility is the hier-archical tree organization for traversinginformation through which decisions aremade at branching points that determinesubsequent pathways. Traversal heremeans making choices at every branchpoint, as with asking people if they wishto see books or music, then fiction or non-fiction, then mystery or romance, etc. A de-sign based on hierarchical traversal is usedin this study to implement interactivity.Traditional advertising can be concep-tualized in a parallel way in order to fo-cus, for research purposes, on its lack


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