This is an excerpt from the book Advertising and Promotion by Terence A. Shimp. If you want to have a thorough understanding of advertising and promotion you should get the book.
"Individualization and interactivity are key features of the Internet and of advertising in that medium. Individualization refers to the fact that the Internet user has control over the flow of information. This feature leads, in turn, to the ability to target advertisments and promotions that are relevant to the consumer. Interactivity, which is intertwined with individualization, allows for users to selest the information they percieve as relevant and for brand managers to build relationships with customers via two way communication. We now elaborate on the importance of the Internet's interactivity feature.
Traditional advertising media vary in the degree to which they are able to generate mental activity from consumers. Nonetheless, all these media engage the consumer in a relatively passive fashion: the consumer listens to or sees information about the advertised brand, but he or she has limited control over the amount or rate of information recieved. What you see (or hear) is what you get. There is action but no interaction. Whereas action involves a flow in one direction (from advertiser to consumer), interaction entails reciprocal behavior. This idea of reciprocity generally defines the nature of interactive media. Interactive advertising enables the user (who no longer is a "reciever" in the traditional, passive model of communications) to control the amount or rate of information that he or she wishes to acquire from a commercial message. The user can choose to devote one second or 15 minutes to a message. He or she is, for all intents and purposes, involved in a conversation with the commercial message at a subvocal level. A request for additional information occurs with the push of a button, the touch of a screen, or the click of a mouse. In all instances, the user and source of commercial information are engaged in a give and take exchange of information - communications intercourse rather than mere transmission and reception. By analogy, a North American football quarterback throws the ball, and the recievers attempt to catch it. Comparitively, in British rugby, players toss the ball back and forth as they advance downfeild - each player both passes and recieves; their relation is analogous to the give and take reciprocity that defines interactive advertising.
The Internet is undeniably a more interactive advertising medium than most. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the Internet as a medium for advertising is not homogenious; rather, there are a variety of different forms of online advertising. These range from e-mail and banner advertisements, which typically offer relativly little opportunity or desire for interaction, to ads encounted when one activly searches a product category or topic (referred to as search engine ads that appear as sponsored links when one conducts, say, a Google search), which generate more interaction."
I thought the author did a good job talking about it, so I decided I'd just quote him. Get the book.
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