By Suzanne Vranica
For decades, much of advertising has been a passive, lean-back experience. But ads have begun to make consumers work harder during the past few years, a trend Madison Avenue executives predict will accelerate in 2011.
More companies are incorporating technology into their marketing to make their promotions stand out. The changes are upending the ad business and forcing consumers to engage with pitches in new ways. Think virtual test-drives of cars and storefronts that let consumers interact with the screen.
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There is no slowdown in sight for this year. Even print and TV ads are asking users to do something, such as scan ads with cellphones to pull up more information from a mobile website. Interactive TV commercials are expected to become more widespread.
Jacquie Corbelli , chief executive of BrightLine Partners LLC, an ad firm that specializes in interactive ads, says brands will turn to Internet TV to "entice consumers with everything from simple games, sweepstakes and coupons, to robust educational and entertainment encounters."
At the same time, nostalgia never seems to go out of style and some ad executives are forecasting retro trends. Can you get more low tech than a jingle? Here are some of Madison Avenue's predictions for 2011:
Souped-Up Mobile Ads
As marketers spend more on mobile ads, experts predict the ads will start to contain more elements beyond basic images and text.
"The big thing in mobile ads this coming year will be the ability to directly buy products from within brand ads," says Eric Litman , chief executive of Medialets Inc., a mobile-ad firm based in New York.
Last year "showed us that mobile ads can be sexy. 2011 will show us they have the brains to match," he adds.
Virtual Product Demos
Companies increasingly will introduce products with technology that creates a virtual feel for a product—such as test-driving a car—says Liron Reznik , co-founder of the Skinny. The ad agency, which is owned by MDC Partners Inc., last year created an interactive film to promote the Lexus CT 200h, a hybrid compact. The site let visitors navigate the car by controlling its steering. Mitsubishi Motors /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 +1.75% Corp. created an online test-drive for its 2011 Outlander Sport.
Marketers have blanketed Apple Inc.'s app store with branded mobile apps, from store finders to games. For example, Charmin, the Procter & Gamble /zigman2/quotes/202894679/composite PG -0.40% Co. toilet paper, offers an app that lets consumers find clean restrooms. This year couch potatoes can expect branded applications to make their way to the TV. "With the possibilities afforded by new cable set-top boxes, game systems, and GoogleTV, 2011 will be the year we'll start to see widely deployed apps for television, and brands will follow," says Trevor Kaufman , chief executive of Schematic, a digital agency owned by WPP PLC.