The Internet as Continuity

During some discussions last week a concept emerged that resonated with a number of people… maybe our industry should be pitching the Internet environment as the best medium for continuity within an advertising campaign?

It is very possible that our “little darling,” the Internet, has matured to the point of truly becoming a mass-medium, and that Interactive advertising has the necessary impact to raise brand awareness and increase sales at a very efficient cost per point or cost per action. Maybe the Internet has actually become the best medium for running a continuity campaign, to sustain the message conveyed in Television and is clearly the second most important medium in conveying a message to the consumer? This point of view is important as it may delineate a clear strategy for the Internet to become a larger portion of the media mix and for advertisers to truly stand up and take notice.

Let’s examine the argument.

First of all, the numbers demonstrate that the Internet is still the fastest growing medium in history with more than 134 million people (source: @plan) in the US incorporating the tools and services provided online into their lives. Moreover, broadband is no longer a dream, but a reality with more than 15 million households subscribing to Broadband (source: Cyberatlas) in addition to the folks at work who already take advantage of faster speeds.

Secondly, there are a number of studies that seem to demonstrate the Internet is effective at raising brand awareness and establishing other metrics that brand marketers thrive on. These are compounded with the immediacy of information, the reduced risk in testing new messages, and the obvious performance that has led direct marketers to the web in droves over the last few years.

Given that the prices for Interactive media are so low, and that online ad spending has surpassed out-of-home and is quickly catching up on radio regardless of the cost cutting, it stands to reason that marketers are realizing this medium is indeed a great opportunity for reaching a mass audience effectively and generating a response.

In contrast, there have been no studies yet to demonstrate the effect of running a strong online campaign to support a series of burst Television flights vs. a similar campaign that relies solely on TV without an online element. All advertising theory states that a campaign is most effective when you surround the user and ensure multiple points of contact between your target audience and your message at varying times during the day. It is logical that these multiple points of interaction re-enforce the messaging and increase the propensity for brand recall, brand awareness, and possible action towards a purchase or some other measurable metric. But is it also possible that this is sheer hubris? Is it possible that our pride at having worked so hard to get the industry to where it is today is clouding our vision and encouraging our own feelings of self-importance? I don’t think so.

I think we are able to take an objective point of view, with many of us having been born out of traditional advertising in the first place, to recognize a sound strategy for growth when one presents itself. There is a simple fact that the Internet is the first and only medium to truly reach the consumer during the workday with an impactful message. That being said, I feel that this study mentioned above would be a very important step in the direction that we need to move. It would require ample planning upfront demonstrating the possible power of the medium as a sustenance tool in a campaign, but as we enter into 2003 I think every agency should begin to look towards these types of studies to provide further rationale for our growth and continued well being.

By this time, it is obvious the Internet is growing and growing quickly. I have recently witnessed the swell of the coming stability and growth. It’s time to catch the wave and ride to shore.

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