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When it comes to passive interactions between consumers and advertisers who’s to blame? Today’s consumers consistently show a willingness to engage and participate with brand campaigns, so long as they’re convenient and tailored to their tastes. Nevertheless, a majority of advertisers are still deploying marketing tactics that don’t compel this type of user behavior. And even fewer seem to be aware of the different nuances demanded by different devices. The proverbial one-size-fits-all approach simply conditions consumers to approach engagement with brands cautiously.

Passive ads, such as TV commercials, are not totally to blame. Instead, it’s the disconnect between the ad, the medium it’s running on and the consumer’s expectations for engaging with the content on that medium. Knowing this informs whether a passive or an active advertisement will best serve your goals.

Passive advertising is best for passive devices and interactive advertising is best for interactive devices. Seems simple enough. And it is: on devices that consumers expect to interact with, such as tablets and mobile, they expect streaming content to cater to interaction. On devices that consumers don’t plan to interact with, such as their TVs, they don’t expect to be able to interact with advertisements (at least in a tactile way).

A recent study by Innovid and Sony Crackle indicated 96 percent of viewers watched an ad to completion through internet-connected TV (like a Roku) while only 76 percent of mobile viewers completed the same. By contrast, smartphone users spent an average of 98 seconds interacting with ads, whereas connected TV viewers spent an average of only 68 seconds, or nearly one third less time.

Know Thy Device

The advantage of being able to reach consumers with advertising on any device is clear, but truly understanding how these devices can propel different behaviors is crucial to formulate a successful cross-device strategy.

It should come as no surprise that mobile holds the highest potential for captivating and engaging audiences. Tapping, typing and clicking are part of the smartphone generation’s DNA, even when it comes to advertising. Deploying passive ads on mobile is grounds for several wasted impressions. Content that encourages interaction gives consumers a chance to explore further, and potentially get further down the funnel.

When it comes to connected TV, viewers tend to be more committed to the content: watching more ads to completion than on a mobile device. Viewers on these types of platforms -- ones namely used during leisure time -- means advertisers can capitalize on this time to raise brand and message awareness with very targeted audiences.

Intrusive vs. Interactive

With in-ad interactivity, brands can create stand-alone engagement that creates an additional form of entertainment for users. There’s no reason to assume that users don’t want to be engaged by digital ads, and in fact, the research found that users will stick with -- and engage with -- ads when they are relevantly interactive. There was a notable increase in every KPI when ads were specifically designed for platform-specific user behaviors: Engagement rates increased 500 percent, click-thru rates increased 600 percent, completion rates increased 25 percent, and the percentage of an ad viewed increased nearly 20 percent.

With the boom of the second screen, today’s ad watchers are now always involved in some other activity while ads air. Interactive content offers advertisers a way to corral that distraction into valuable activity or "controlled distractions.” In short, done right, interactive advertising can extend and prolong user engagement, rather than interrupt it.

Making It Work

The advertiser opportunity to meet consumers in their state of passive vs. active is now. TV dollars are becoming interactive dollars. Web dollars are becoming mobile dollars. But amidst this change, advertisers need formats that work across screens and solutions that scale. Not to mention, the actual production cost should not supersede the advertising and branding opportunity.

Consumers no longer bound to a specific place, screen or story. As audiences have opened up their passive and interactive states media consumption states to multiple screens, advertisers must match this behavior -- not just at the right time or place, but with the right message and level of interactivity.

Title image by Martin Abegglen (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license