Interactive Advertising then and now: A 30-Year Perspective

Marketing and advertising, as any other sphere of business, are in a constant search of more effective and efficient ways of interacting with customers. It is evident that compared to 30 years ago, current technological advances provide more opportunities for implementing marketing strategies in a more precise and effective manner. Moreover, it is impossible to ignore that users’ preferences and behavior changed drastically over the last decades.

Such one-way advertisements as TV commercials and print ads are not considered to be the most effective anymore since they do not provide customers with personalized and highly targeted advertising experiences. Interactive advertising, on the other hand, allows customers to interact with brands and their ad experience and play an active role in marketing campaigns. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the evolution of interactive advertising and let’s see how advertising changed over the last 30 years and how interactive advertising has been brought to our lives.

What is Interactive Advertising?

Interactive advertising is a type of advertising that encourages consumers to engage and interact with an ad. It allows brands to establish and develop communication with their clients.

The importance of interactive advertising cannot be unnoticed and lies in its ability to create a more meaningful advertising experience for consumers. Traditional advertising couldn’t provide customers with such an opportunity, and they were simply bombarded with brands’ messages and slogans. Moreover, interactive advertising allows consumers to have control over the ads due to their focus on not only promoting a brand or a product but also doing it in the most fun and meaningful way. Moreover, according to the data, digital advertising will make up more than 75% of all media spending by 2025, and interactive advertising can play a significant role in this trend.

Depending on a brand, product and marketing campaign purpose, there are various interactive ad formats that marketers can choose from.

  • Display ads: Display ads represent a form of online advertising integrating text, images, and a URL leading to a website for further information or product purchase. 
Image Source

Various formats exist, ranging from static images to animated content featuring multiple images, videos, or dynamic text (referred to as rich media ads). Ad campaigns serve diverse objectives; certain display ads focus on product education, while others aim to entertain and engage users with games or puzzles. Banner ads, a prevalent type of display ads, are commonly employed for awareness campaigns.

  • Video ads: Interactive video refers to digital or linear video that allows user interaction through clicks, touches, taps, and movement, going beyond simple play and pause functions.

In interactive videos, viewers take control and shape the narrative by choosing storylines and making decisions based on their interests.Interactive video ads offer significant benefits, because they provide a detailed and personalized understanding of viewers’ preferences, potentially surpassing the value of linear videos or targeted marketing when combined.

  • Social media ads: Interactive ads provided via social media channels allow users to be engaged and interact with the product or brand.
Image Source

For example, Facebook is one of the platforms that stands out as an excellent space for captivating consumers using interactive ads. With the help of advanced technologies of social media, brands can share incredibly engaging content. These ads enable consumers to fill out forms, watch videos, or swipe through a series of photos.

How Interactive Advertising Changed Over Time?

Interactive advertising has evolved rapidly since its early days in the 1990s. Here is a brief overview of the evolution of interactive advertising:

Early days: The rise of Gen X led to a shift in advertising towards a softer sell or complete irreverence. They were skeptical about consumerism thus making advertisers struggle to find the most cost effective ways to reach a larger audience and engage them in ads. Moreover, the internet emerged as a new advertising medium, but it didn’t have as many users as nowadays and technologies were not as advanced. Therefore, advertisers couldn’t use the internet marketing opportunities to the fullest. In the meantime, ad agencies scrambled to keep up with the changes, and the phrase “integrated communications” became the new buzzword. Despite the uncertainty, the 1990s laid the foundation for advertising as we know it today.

Rise of internet and social media: The rise of internet and social media in the late 2000s and early 2010s led to a new era of interactive advertising. TV advertising started losing its effectiveness since people started shifting to social media and internet technologies.During the early and mid-2010s, there was a clear shift towards innovative approaches. For instance, Pepsi redirected a significant portion of its 2010 marketing budget away from traditional Super Bowl TV ads. Instead, they concentrated on social media, brand purpose, and digital engagement goals.

The rise of social media marketing also marked a starting point for influencer marketing. Marketers noticed a rising interest of users and started experimenting with different ad formats. One of the vivid examples of new social media ads in the 2010s is challenges. Everybody remembers the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that created huge buzz and involved 28 million people into the challenge.

Image Source

Even though this challenge was not commercial and was focused on raising money for charity, marketers could see the real power of social media and realized that it can be used to interact successfully with users and create a strong connection between a brand and consumers.

Rise of digital advertising: The rise of digital advertising is one of the most significant developments in the marketing industry in recent decades. Digital advertising has transformed the way businesses reach and engage with their target audiences. It is now the dominant form of advertising, accounting for over half of all ad spending worldwide.

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the rise of digital advertising. First, the widespread adoption of the internet has created a vast and captive audience for advertisers. Second, digital advertising offers a number of advantages over traditional forms of advertising, such as television and print. For example, digital ads can be more targeted, interactive, and measurable. Moreover, the accessibility of technologies such as smartphones and tablets increased inclusivity of every individual into the advertising experience.

One of the examples is an interactive campaign of Coca Cola that used the power of technologies to the fullest. They created interactive advertisements on billboards, mobile phones and TVs that everyone could interact with and receive a bottle of Coca Cola for free. It was not only interactive, but also a lot of fun, because it stood out from all other advertisements and made every consumer involved.

Coca Cola Interactive Ad

Personalization: With the rise of big data and artificial intelligence, interactive advertising has become increasingly personalized. Brands can now target their ads to specific consumers based on their demographics, interests, and behaviors. This has made interactive advertising more effective and less intrusive. According to Accenture Interactive, 91% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that remember their interests and provide offers based on their needs. 

New ad formats: Recently the advertising industry has faced new challenges due to the development of technologies and changes in customers’ attitude towards advertisements. 

For example, the new wave of customers represented by the Gen Z generation doesn’t respond to ads as the marketers would want. According to a Millward Brown study titled AdReaction, Gen Z generation will control or skip ads whenever possible. Eighty-two percent will skip the ad as fast as they can, if given the option. Sixty-nine percent said they will physically do something to distract themselves for 30-to-60 seconds until the ad runs its course, 51 percent will use some sort of technology to block the ad and 40 percent will just stare at the ad until it goes away.

Therefore, coming up with new ad formats became a necessity for carrying out successful marketing campaigns. New ad formats such as video ads, interactive display ads, and augmented reality ads are constantly emerging. These new ad formats allow brands to create more immersive and engaging experiences for consumers.

  • Interactive video ads: Interactive video ads allow viewers to interact with the ad in some way, such as by clicking on hotspots, choosing different paths, or playing a game. This can make video ads more engaging and memorable.
  • Native ads: Native ads are designed to blend in with the surrounding content, making them less intrusive and more likely to be noticed by consumers. Native ads can be used in a variety of different placements, such as social media feeds, article pages, and search results.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) ads: AR and VR ads allow consumers to interact with products and services in a more immersive way. For example, an AR ad could allow a consumer to see how a piece of furniture would look in their home, or a VR ad could allow a consumer to experience a new video game.

The journey of interactive advertising has truly transformed the way we engage with brands. From the early days of basic banner ads to the immersive experiences of augmented reality, interactive advertising has evolved, engaging users actively and making them part of the brand story. This shift from one-sided communication to personalized, interactive encounters is a game-changer in the advertising world. As we look ahead, the future of interactive advertising is incredibly promising, promising innovative ad formats that blend the digital and physical worlds seamlessly. Interactive advertising isn’t just about selling; it’s about creating meaningful connections, leaving a lasting impact on both businesses and consumers, shaping the future of marketing.


Business Intelligence Specialist

Are you ready to

Step into the future of marketing with gamification - contact today and let's take your brand engagement to the next level with Interactive Video Ads!