@dTech Conference, New York, 1999

@d:tech’s New York conference of Internet marketing, advertising and commerce held last week raised conflicting issues about the Internet as media art versus media insect. Are we to treat this space as a whole new animal or simply magnify and dissect it’s component parts hoping to make classical sense out of it? Someone called it “marketing on steroids” and they appear to be right. The Internet is a place where entertainment, retailing, customer cross-talk and context rich environments are *all* the norm.

Enabling innovation and new advertising models were competing themes as Industry movers and shakers discussed where we are now, measuring what matters, new business models and capturing consumer interest. This seasons moderators, panelists and forum leaders pushed and pulled the issues of standardization, measurement, rich media, consumer acceptance and just plain selling.

Focused on establishing benchmarks for advertisers to gauge their general thrust into the Internet marketing arena, statistics abounded. While it was widely agreed that new models need to be created and implemented, standardization of measurement tools is a slippery and elusive problem. “There are no silver bullets.” So says IPSoS-ASI’s Marianne Foley. As of the research conducted in October of this year where users were recruited and sent to a specific site, there is no recommended advertising unit.

Some results show:

File size doesn’t get recall.

Click-through is not the same as recall.

Clicks within a banner window doubled versus a banner with no menu or drop down option.

Mass in terms of reach is not mass in terms of audience.

There is a marked increase in noticability with a daughter window or an interstitial.

Newcomers to the Web are more positive toward advertising than older users.

Users are less inclined toward advertising when they are online to retrieve specific information as they are when they are just surfing (e.g.: financial surfers want info faster).

Users are afraid that clicking on a window will take them away from a page that they won’t be able to get back to.

Users are willing to download software to activate video or rich media ads.

Representing all segments of industry from the 4 A’s and the ANA to the Advertising Research Foundation, the FAST(Future of Advertising Stakeholders)Forward Summit spawned by last August’s Procter & Gamble call-to-action encouraged 600 high-powered industry volunteers to “Check our agendas at the door.” The FAST committees are developing a plan to accelerate the use of a new medium for advertising from a “mountain summit approach”, or, enabling innovation by building levels of success. They are focused on how to survive this revolution, let alone how to profit from it.

As more and more users come onto the Internet each day, they are less likely to find advertising intrusive or offensive as they never experienced a time when there wasn’t any.  Conversely, advertising is still a service for people we are communicating to. As marketers, we must ask ourselves: “What is my objective?” To brand, transact, drive traffic, establish imagery and equity or to communicate and persuade?

We’ve gone from a producer-driven economy to a networked economy where the customer is in control.  Price, quality and service always involved a trade-off. Now consumers want all three and have a choice of how they are sold to.  And user-requested advertising is NOT a viable model.

Microsoft predicts there will be 260 million people on the Web in the year 2000. There are no assumptions. We ARE re-inventing the wheel.

The metrics of the market economy were based on market share. The end goal was selling the product. Now, relationships are the underpinnings. Community is not where it begins but where it will end. Privileged access, custom stores, specific clientele, employees rewarded for associations. This is disintermediation and mass customization where brand, franchise and relationship equal value.

Rich media, the industry’s response to demand for more enticing content, seemed to permeate the conference. The increase of rich media — offering more interactivity than just a click through — triples click rates and conversion rates double. This increase of impact comes with its own puzzle: expense, struggles to keep up with technology, standards of the next wave and standards of success. Technologies are clamoring. It’s alphabet soup out there. The question remains: Why not establish a framework, not a technology?

For now, the bottom line is unanimous: Don’t negatively impact the user’s experience. Don’t crash browsers — tune for speed and tune for

graphics. Abbreviate testing time – spend six minutes, not six weeks. In short: make rich media compatible with your user base.

The Internet is part of the user’s life. There is enthusiasm for the next generation of online activities but it’s not about impressions, it’s about time spent.  Users are not on the net looking for advertising. Interruptions are not effective. Interactive is.

So, how do you improve the user experience? Here are some helpful hints:

Remove the gray box (blank space waiting for a download).

Remove wait time.

Remove interference with the publisher’s page to see an ad.

Publishers — offer reports on demand with private, password protected URL to retrieve data.

Update creative to insure better ad performance.

Manage customer expectations.

Have respect for the user.

Important: publishers have control over the advertisers’ methods. Production  value of ads must look similar to the production value of the editorial. It behooves the advertiser to preserve the best editorial experience versus the best advertiser experience.

How does the advertiser take advantage of this extension into so many new places? Rich media has proven to be more attractive, but let’s not discourage the next better thing to capture the ad dollar. While we devise a stamp of approval, define a standard testing platform we are in conflict with the code writers who are trying to be more creative, different and position themselves in the marketplace. The hazard would be to implement that ever-horrific

adage that’s ruled the classical advertising space: “It’s the way we’ve always done it in the past.”

Dick Hopple of Unicast urges, “Apply the craft. Make use of the unique aspects of the Internet. Tap into its potential…[after all] TV without pictures makes lousy radio.” And most importantly, broadband is a feature, not the service. After all, adding color didn’t change the use of television.

In summary, Bob Shmetterer, of Euro-RSCG, really captured the essence of the message in his keynote address. “We’re in the business of

connecting,” he said. The media revolution is fragmenting audiences and a new Internet user is signing up every 2 seconds. This is the

fastest adapted technology in history and the only medium that wasn’t created by advertisers. Companies who can’t add value to this process will cease to exist.

“The Internet is a loyalty and conviction medium,” states Shmetterer. “Those who integrate will be the winners.” Produce total creative solutions that manage brand and brand equity on a global basis using the Internet as the glue. Exploit the power of each medium, present one image no matter what and engage consumers wherever they are.”

Favorite battle cries heard around the conference were:

With E_commerce, community is the promised land.

It’s not about bludgeoning for CPM’s.

The Internet is a perpetual motion machine.

Get grounded in the reality that is the uncertainty of the marketplace.

There isn’t a good ROI, there’s only the best ROI.

Optimize on results whatever the results are.

Global equals connected but still unique. And,

Know what you want.

As Will Rogers once said, “Buy ocean front property, they’re not making any more.” Advertisers and marketers who miss this, will miss it. Waiting until all your competitors figure this out is waiting too long.

contact Elaine @ elaine@mavenmediany.com

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