Intangible Justifications for Avoiding Online (And What We Should Do About Them)

As an industry, we've done a great job of determining what Online's value proposition should be to the marketer. It's taken us time, and the pursuit of the answer to the question "Why Online?" has led us down a few dead ends, but by and large we've made our case.

We've proven that the eyeballs are there, and that those eyeballs are hard, if not impossible, to reach with more mainstream media. We've proven that online has branding value. We've addressed the notion of Online's overbearing complexity with tools that help streamline our process. We've developed tools to show marketers how Online's contribution affects the media mix. One by one, we've removed all or most of the tangible barriers to using online media.

Granted, many marketers will require additional time to overcome inertia, but Online's renaissance is definitely on its way.

But why is the turnaround happening slowly, as opposed to at Internet speed? Sure, there are economic and risk factors involved, but there are also some less tangible reasons for avoiding online that we all need to address as an industry. Here are some of them...



  • Client: "I can't see my online ads." - Company CEOs can buy TV ads in the World Series and brag about them on the golf course for weeks afterward. When was the last time C-level executives talked about a highly memorable banner ad? Probably never.

    There's something about a wide reach ad, particularly in broadcast, that massages the ego. By its nature, online advertising is targeted and often a different experience for each user. A CEO can reach a wide target cheaply and easily with broadcast and get the added benefit of an ego massage when his ads become shared experiences in the nation's collective consciousness. So how can online compete with broadcast and other high-reach media in this regard?

    One way would be to show case studies that tout the benefits of high-impact, fixed placements. Marketers need to know what sort of brand impact they can make with a campaign that includes things like home page rich media placements and owning particular dayparts.

  • Big Ad Agency Exec: "I can't make money recommending online." - Many big ad agencies swear up and down that they recommend the media that are most appropriate to use to achieve client objectives. Curious how the recommended media mix always seems to be the one that's most profitable for the agency...

    As an industry, we need to shed the image of being a loss leader. Otherwise, we'll lose market share at every communications planning kickoff meeting. We can do this by chugging forward on standardization and the development of planning and operational tools that streamline the online planning process. Any agency that thinks online isn't profitable had better have planning and implementation tools in place from DoubleClick, Atlas DMT or another major provider. Otherwise, they're not getting the whole story.

  • Client: "I can lose my job for recommending online." - There's always risk inherent in recommending significant budget shifts to new vehicles. With the job market the way it is in the marketing sector these days, no one wants to take unnecessary chances. This leads to a culture of aversion to risk, which means warming up last year's media plan in the microwave and serving it up as this year's piping hot plan.

    But this can't last forever. Media fragmentation alone will erode the effectiveness of older media strategies. What we need to do is show marketers what online (and the increased number of media choices in general) has done to the media landscape. Advertisers have to understand what's happened to their audience over the past several years. A simple quintile analysis of media vehicles should illustrate this nicely.

  • Client: "I have a bad taste in my mouth from my first stint with online in 1998." - We made a lot of enemies back then. Some may never return to online advertising. The only way we can chip away at the perception that the pre-2000 years were a total rip-off is to eliminate any behavior even resembling that of the runaway online ad deals. Media buyers, if you receive any proposals that force you to take inventory that you're not interested in, call for CPMs that are several times higher than what the market will support, or that contain any "take this deal or shove it" language, keep them as far from the recommendation as possible. Don't forget that you can buy around any site or portal on the Internet.

    If we work on some of these intangibles, I think we can make even more progress in booking solid, long-term relationship deals.

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