Commentary

Getting An Advertiser To Use Online

A while back, a very important agency person from the traditional realm who’s been around the business a very long time, asked me some questions about what I thought was still needed to get general market advertisers to start using the Internet as a serious advertising tool.

It was strange when I considered my answers, because they haven’t changed much in the last year or so. And when I thought about it, no one’s answers to questions regarding just about anything that has to do with interactive marketing have changed much in the last year or so.

I realized that the reason is because we’ve been doing too much talking to ourselves and not enough talking to the rest of the world. Like St. Simeon, we keep climbing atop pillars higher and higher into the air until the only voices we hear are our own or those coming from the other pillars around us.

A lot of good information and interesting insight comes from the spaces in this publication from a myriad of authors. But all of it is being exchanged among one another, with little of it making it to the outside world. Like an island full of cats – you keep them isolated long enough, and you end up with just one species of ür-cat, all making the same growl.

Following are suggestions I made in response to that individual’s query. Some you’ve likely heard before, some you may have not. But I urge all of you to forward any that you think might induce a client or prospect to give this medium a first or even second chance.

What is still needed?

What is still needed for a robust use of the Web medium as an advertising vehicle is a method for determining the potential communication delivery -- namely, reach and frequency. Once tools are available, which some now are, to determine general reach and frequency against a specific target audience for a given weight level, then advertisers can determine what sorts of effects each potential component will have as part of their overall comprehensive communications packages. This means that an advertiser will now be able to determine what contributions the online media planned can make in conjunction with other media being considered.

Something else that is still needed require more of a change in the culture of marketing itself. What is required is a conceptual paradigm shift from the conventional wisdom of communicating with a demographic to instead communicating with a psychographic. For many years, the demographic has served as a proxy for product preferences and character attributes. Instead of talking to coffee drinkers, for instance, a coffee advertiser identifies statistically significant concentrations of users of a given age, gender, education, etc. and then speaks to them. The coffee drinker is likely among the demographic aggregate, but so, too, can the coffee drinker reside outside of that demographic. Something the Web as a medium allows for better than any other is the ability to target advertising based on declarative data. Though most of that data is demographic, there is no reason why it cannot be psychographic. Once identified, the “coffee drinker” can be singled out and given a message specifically for coffee drinkers, not a message for A25-54 who might be coffee drinkers.

Integration

Integration is difficult to address because it is difficult to define. Is integration having one media work with another? Is it the maintenance of a creative message, look, and feel across multiple media? Is it simply to incorporate as part of the media plan?

The most answerable question is the last one. There are three ways to look at the integration of online media with the rest of a media plan:

  1. As a Promotional vehicle
  2. To conduct Research
  3. Standard Use as Media

As a promotional vehicle. Web-based media is able to accomplish what traditional terrestrial media cannot, and it can do it far more efficiently. Promotions allow for a tangible point of contact with a consumer or potential consumer. Offline promotions provide the advertiser with a one-time point of contact and a limited opportunity for data capture. And it is often-times expensive to deploy, particularly if there is any significant data capture component. Online, an advertiser can elicit trial, gauge for interest, and make contact of the sort that can be used regularly to maintain communication with the consumer (namely, email). This can be done for a relatively low cost when compared with offline promotion.

For the purposes of research. Imagine you are an advertiser on ESPN Sunday Night Football. During the game, a coach challenges a call by the refs. John Madden tells viewers to log onto ESPN.com and cast their vote for player of the game. Using online random intercepts of those logging onto the site to register their opinion can teach an advertiser on ABC a lot about the television viewing audience that could not be found out in any other way. An advertiser could realistically conduct 10,000 five-question surveys in less than 5 minutes for a fraction of the cost of focus groups. The advertiser could also find out a lot about just who is seeing and being impacted by their television advertising. Not to mention the incredible cross-media platform synergy that could be possible.

Standard Use as Media. Once more agencies gain proficiency with online R/F tools, and the more improved R/F tools get, the easier it will be to express the impact of online advertising in terms of general market media. This, in turn, will allow for easier assessment of the medium and better understanding of what it contributes. If I don’t know what it does, or I know what it does, but I don’t know what that means to my overall marketing endeavor, it’s going to be hard for me to justify its use.

Again, no sparkling new pearls of wisdom here, folks. Simply effective frequency. I'm just making the point that there are things worth repeating if the right people aren’t getting the message the first time around.

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