It is some time in the future and you are shopping at a supermarket. You insert your loyalty card into a kiosk, which greets you by name. By pulling information from your customer database, the kiosk knows you have a fine taste for wines, so it shows you a video clip of the week's special offer on Italian wines. If you want to know about any more offers, you simply touch a screen.
The technology to do all this is not quite there yet, but the potential offered by interactive technology has excited many in the advertising, marketing and communications industries.
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted," soap magnate Lord Leverhulme said. "The trouble is that I don't know which half."
The beauty of interactive systems is that they give companies feedback on the number of people taking an interest in their advert, how long they look at it and even which parts of the ad were most liked. A number of systems are being used for interactive communications, including CD-Rom, CD-i, point-of-information (POI) kiosks, interactive TV and the Internet.
Interactive Learning Productions (ILP) set up a multimedia division a year ago. Its director, Steve Grainger, says: "People are now looking at multimedia as a serious part of their marketing strategy." ILP developed a marketing CD-Rom for the Brewery, a London-based conferencing and banqueting centre. The disc includes images of all the food and drink on offer, a virtual tour, and an event planner to help companies organise meetings.
The Design Clinic has produced a pre-sales interactive system for the BSkyB satellite TV service, using a CD-i player connected to a TV. The system, which is in more than 550 stores around the UK, includes video clips from the various channels and a guide to different packages.
A growing number of companies are using the Internet to market their name or brands. The drinks company Carling has a Web site aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds (the largest group of lager drinkers). The site includes Premier League football match updates and team and merchandising information.
Thomas Cook's site has a worldwide database of more than 100 countries, and users can find hotel and resort information. …