A Force That Won't Stop
If only life were that simple. Much of the challenge in Web advertising is that technology continues to race ahead, quickly outpacing marketers' and agencies' abilities to use it properly.
The much-maligned banner, for example, hasn't really been given a proper chance to succeed. As soon as click-throughs (a specious metric if there ever was one) started dropping, the hunt was on for new, better, different technologies. Various kinds of rich media appeared, along with new gizmos and formats.
Hardly a week goes by without the announcement of yet another way for our computer screens to blaze with pops and colors and splashes and animation.
Developing new ad technologies isn't especially difficult. One of the beauties of the Web is that programming for it is purposely not complicated; it was designed to let imaginations run free. The problem is the same that a kid faces on Christmas morning: every present is ripped open, played with for a minute or two, then dropped for the next pretty wrapper.
It is senseless, of course, to take the side of the lady in the cartoon and request no new technological improvements. Joshua was able to stop the sun at the battle of Jericho, but deities have been unresponsive to those kinds of requests of late. Innovation of any kind is an irresistible force that won't stop, ever.
What to do?
A good place to start is to look for what irresistible forces affect the Web. A very significant force, perhaps the most significant, is the continuing increase in audience that the Web is attracting. Most Web audience measurement services don't agree on much, but one thing they do see the same way is that every month the Web has more visitors. And that means that marketers simply cannot ignore it. Those that are already playing will increase their participation, while those one the sidelines will figure out a way to play. And soon.
So now we know the eyeballs are there. What to do with them? Advertising isn't rocket science, regardless of what medium we're dealing with. The basic principle for success is immutable: put the right ad for the right product at the right price in front of the right audience. Gizmos and gimmicks are good for temporary blips in sales, but they're rarely sufficient to build a business.
While technological advances will certainly continue, more than enough tools exist today to forge successful Web campaigns. As Paul Simon sang in "The Boy in the Bubble": These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all.
- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, formerly Leading Web Advertisers, one of the web's most powerful sources for online ad data.