Are interactive advertising and creativity opposed?

I just read an interesting post at “I, A Bee,” a blog by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The post, “A Bigger Idea: A Manifesto on Interactive Advertising Creativity,” was well written and provocative. According to Randall Rothenberg, the blog’s author, “the four enemies of online branding [are]:

  • A direct-marketing culture and tradition that devalues creativity and its long-term effect on brands
  • An interactive agency business model that disincentivizes greatness and fails to penalize mediocrity
  • An unwillingness by mainstream agencies to integrate technologists as full partners in the advertising creative team
  • Media industry values and habits that malign and depreciate our own products, and by extension our customers'”

I agree with many of these points, especially the last two. However, my concern is with the unwritten premise of the article, which is that online advertising’s Holy Grail is as a medium for memorable brand impressions. Rothenberg laments the fact that few people can name a “great banner ad” the way they can a great TV or print ad, thus reflecting the bias that all great advertising is about memorability.

Advertising online has the wonderful capability, too often squandered, of being highly contextually relevant. People use the Internet as a source of information, entertainment and communications. They can interact with online advertising in a way that is not possible in other media. So the quest of online advertising should not be memorable brand impressions but significant and relevant consumer interactions. I believe this is a higher standard to meet, but it requires many advertising professionals reassess their training.

Can great creative aid in improving significant and relevant consumer interaction? Absolutely! Will I talk about the best banners on ESPN.com the day after the big game? Probably not. But as a marketer focused on driving business results, I don’t care. Do you?