In today’s fast-paced digital world, it is more challenging than ever to capture the attention of an audience which, studies show, has seen its attention span diminish over time. With so much content now competing for people’s attention, it has become necessary for advertisers to find a way of reaching those audiences. This is part of the logic behind interactive ads, which have changed the script in out-of-home advertising and offered a new way for them to engage customers who have seemed impervious to traditional methods.

The Evolution of Advertising

Within the last couple of decades, advertising has changed radically. Where billboards and radio spots once ruled the roost, modern advertising is likely to rely more on banners on websites, or attention-grabbing social media campaigns. Go back even further to the Mad Men era of the 1960s and most of the campaigns that were being pitched then were full-page print ads with detailed stories tacked on. In the 2020s, if a campaign can’t tell its story in seconds, and ideally do it without words, then it has a struggle on its hands.

As recently as 2020, digital advertising spend worldwide surpassed traditional methods for the first time. This indicates that advertiser priorities have shifted, and given the march of technology, probably shifted permanently. Some onlookers are arguing that this tells a story about the shrinking attention span of the average consumer – by almost 33% according to some studies – but as we will see, there are more reasons than that for the growing emphasis on interactive digital advertising.

Interactive Ads Defined

On one level, the definition of interactive ads is a fairly simple one: advertisements that can be interacted with. Actually, that’s a pretty good definition, but within the industry, the definition goes a little further. Interactive ads are designed to create a two-way conversation by encouraging users to engage. They might be expected to swipe, click, or even engage verbally. The result of their engagement should be an experience that continues to resonate after the interaction has ended; a personalized experience that benefits the user and encourages them to stay on board with the brand.

The Psychology Behind Interactive Ads

Humans are by nature a curious breed. The thinking behind interactive ads is to tap into this curiosity, taking a process that is usually one-way and making it participatory. When the user of an ad feels that they have some control and participation with the content they see, it causes them to automatically feel a deeper sense of connection with it. This makes the message of the content more impactful, and the user is more likely to feel an affiliation to the company connected to that content.

A successful interactive ad will leave users feeling that the brand “gets” them, and will form a stronger mental and emotional connection between the user and the brand. It may not result in the customer immediately going and buying products or arranging a consultation, but it will lay a psychological connection, and when the user next feels like they need a new lipstick, a new bookcase, or a soft drink, they’ll already have that connection established. They are more likely to choose the company on the other end of that connection.

Brands That Nailed Interactive Ads

To make interactive ads work, you certainly need some imagination, and you also need a hook – something that makes your ad really stand out. It’s easy to say that, of course, and a bit more challenging to come up with something that really works. A couple of decent examples of the medium would be helpful right about now, and here they are.

IKEA, one of the most recognizable brands on the planet, has had a long history of strong concepts. If someone mentions Swedish flat-pack furniture, arrows on the floor, or even meatballs, the name immediately springs to mind. Another thing that is inextricably linked with the IKEA brand is the Big Blue Bag. So when the company turned its trademark bag into a 19-foot-tall sculpture and took it on tour around the US, shoppers automatically engaged with the highly recognizable feature. They were able to participate in an AR experience, and also benefit from big savings the next time they shopped at IKEA.

Meanwhile, Pepsi Max used Augmented Reality to transform a simple London bus shelter into a 3D ad, creating jaw-dropping scenarios such as a laser-shooting robot, an asteroid, and tentacles emerging from a manhole. The footage became a viral hit and one day’s worth of footage was enough for the company to turn into a social film. The campaign picked up 3million views on YouTube in just five days, and for the month the concept was live, sales of Pepsi Max increased by 35% year-on-year.

Tips for Creating Engaging Interactive Ads

  • Personalization: Interactive ads will work better if they are tailored based on user behavior and preferences, so it is ideal to capture as much information as you can.
  • Storytelling: If you can create a compelling narrative, then people will be more likely to participate, forming that all-important neural connection.
  • User participation: It’s always a good idea to include elements such as polls or quizzes. The user will take action, which strengthens the connection, and they are more likely to volunteer information that helps you tailor more content.

What is the Future of Interactive Advertising?

As technology becomes more innovative, advertising is finding ways to harness it for more original and compelling campaigns. Some examples include:

  • Augmented Reality (AR): Brands are using AR to allow customers to imagine new furniture in their own living room, or as in the case of L’Oreal, allowing users to “try on” new makeup virtually before they buy.
  • Programmatic Advertising: Scheduling and automating your ad purchases means that the right audience gets to see the right ad at the right time and place.
  • Digital Screens: Technology is allowing out-of-home advertising spaces to become interactive billboards, smart mirrors, and more.

In an era where attention spans are shorter, and there are more forms of content competing for them, making an impression with your ad campaigns has never been more crucial. Interactive advertising, particularly in out-of-home advertising, represents an invaluable opportunity to reach people wherever they are and form lasting impressions and stronger brand recall.