Tomorrow’s Fortunes

Sometime around 1980 Andrew Tobias wrote a couple of prescient articles in New York Magazine. One, titled “Getting by on $100,000 a Year”, described in detail how difficult it was for a family of four to live on a six-figure income. Adjusted for inflation, the same argument holds truth today. The second article, titled “Tomorrow’s Fortunes are Being Built Today”, was in some ways even more interesting. At a time when the U.S. economy was floundering, when the housing market had tanked, and when the national sentiment was strongly pessimistic, it was Tobias’ thesis that real estate and stocks were absurdly cheap and virtually any investment would yield huge returns over the next decade. He was bucking the opinion of just about every other journalist and financial prognosticator; following the advice of the newspapers of that day would have led most investors to catatonic inactivity.

But Tobias’ crystal ball was uncannily clear. The seeds of a great boom had indeed been planted, and his prediction became fact. Those bold enough to dive into the stocks and real estate in 1980 were rewarded handsomely.



Well, 2001 is beginning to look a lot like 1980. While conventional wisdom has it that Web advertising is either on the critical list or dead altogether, I believe the opposite is true. Marketers are beginning to understand several critical facts about advertising on the Web:

1. Statistics are inaccurate and misleading. While there are many companies quoting a wide variety of Web-related statistics, the validity of most of these numbers is suspect. The truth is that the Web is an extraordinarily complicated medium to measure, where one is looking at ad spending, usage, click-throughs, or any other metric. For marketers, the best source of information on Web usage is their own direct experience.

2. The Web is not a straightforward advertising medium. By comparison, it was relatively easy for marketers of figure out how to best use print, radio, and television as means to carry advertising. The Web is much more complicated, and each marketer needs to take the time, effort, and expense to unlock the best way to use it. Experiments in branding, promotions, and direct response yield excellent information that can be used to triangulate in on a successful campaign.

3. It is very useful to see what the other guys are doing. More than any other medium, the Web lends itself perfectly to imitation. Who’s advertising? Where? What are they saying? Which ads have longevity, and which drop off quickly? Paying attention to the answers to these questions will yield excellent information on how best to use the Web.

The Web took off like a rocket for a few years, and now the rate of growth has slowed--but it’s still growing. And as Andy Tobias said 21 years ago, tomorrow’s fortunes are being built today.

- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of New York-based Leading Web Advertisers (LWA) - - a comprehensive Web advertisement monitori

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