Global consumers are increasingly conducting all facets of life–and business–online. The notions of “going mobile” and “going digital” have for many become as commonplace as eating and sleeping, and retailers have responded by increasing sales with digital and interactive advertising. Facial recognition technology is responsible for billboards that show images–and vending machines that suggest products– tailored to the assumed preferences of the viewer, and video components added to otherwise run-of-the-mill retailer websites help visitors learn about and make purchases the “fun” way. Video Storefront–a recent observation from Mintel’s Inspire–shows, for example, how a new wave of online shopping guides consumers through watching music videos and purchasing items worn by featured stars. Interactive advertising is innovative, eye-catching, and conducive to driving more purchases. However, its power has largely been contained to the retail space, having little benefit for the larger population. That is, until businesses decided to use it for charity.

International ad agency JWT recently partnered with Florescer–a Brazilian non-government organization that works to improve the lives of children in one of the country’s (and world’s) largest impoverished neighborhoods–to launch a creative fundraising campaign with a positive spin. “Tomorrow in a Box” is an interactive website made for the children of Florescer, featuring their ideas for–and pictures of–the world’s next great invention. Visitors to the site can read about the inventions and their inventors, and then go so far as to buy them. Every idea on the site is published with an associated price, and when they’re bought, the money goes as a direct donation to Florescer.

Donors won’t actually receive the popcorn-making trash cans, automatic makeup machines, or one of a host of other neat inventions that they can choose to buy, because at least for now they are just ideas. However, they will receive a picture of the invention, along with a link they can post to their Facebook pages and other social networking sites to increase awareness and encourage more donations. In this way, the role of social networking in the interactive ad space may be two-fold. It can help achieve the primary goal of raising charitable funds, but may also give inventors such as Florescer’s children the support they need to take their ideas to the next level.

The Next Step with Interactive Web Advertising

The Mintel Inspire trend “Perfecting the Details” discusses the role of science in solving the world’s problems, and leaves us with the idea that, if we can dream it, we should be able to have it. Applying this logic to the Florescer children’s inventions, there is no reason that their ideas should be limited to the imaginary. This is especially true if what they dream up is getting widespread support in the social networking world.

Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and the like can be taken as the public’s endorsement for both the work of Florescer and the inventions themselves, as their going so far to purchase one of the ideas should logically be a sign that they like it. With the right approach, developers, manufacturers, and retailers can latch on to inventions with the most support to take them from imagination to reality, giving consumers new products they may actually want and youth inventors the additional support–and perhaps a bit of notoriety– from which they could clearly benefit. Tomorrow in a Box has shown that what begins as relatively simplistic interactive web advertising has the potential to transform into a global campaign invoking lasting commercial and personal change.