The Next Big Thing - Back to Basics

From time to time in these pages I tend to go on a rant. Usually my rants are related to what I think is working and what I think is not working, and more often than not I'm asked, "What do you think is the next big thing?" I want to finally answer that question.

My opinion on the "Next Big Thing" is really quite simple. You can answer this for yourself if you take a moment to explore how consumers utilize the Internet. If you want to know how to allocate your budgets and your time to be most effective, it is very useful to understand how your audience utilizes the medium.

How is your time allocated online? If your time allocation is anything like mine than you probably spend about 10% of your time on search engines, 50% of your time on email, and 40% of your time on various websites that you visit on a regular basis. Of course, this may skew higher towards email when you're at work, but overall I think this is a fair comparison of my online habits.

If a consumer such as myself is spending 50% of their time on email and 40% of their time on websites, than why do marketers trying to reach me spend 40-60% of their online budgets on Search? The obvious answer is that it works, and that is certainly a fair response, especially given than many marketers are weighting the majority of their budgets to the Direct Response elements and are seeking accountability, but if an advertiser is to grow and their online budgets to respond accordingly, then they need to crack the nut, so to speak, that can make their other online advertising more effective.



If consumers are spending the majority of their time on email and websites, then that would seem to tell me that the largest opportunity for growth is here. The "Next Big Thing" may not actually be anything too dramatic, but rather it may be a refocusing on the basics of what we need to be successful, and that is breaking through the clutter and reaching our target audience on the sites they are visiting every day or every couple of days. Until the Spam issues are finally addressed, email is pretty much un-fixable, so that leaves the majority of the opportunity to be focused on within content.

"Contextual" advertising, or whatever we call it, is not "it."

Pop-ups and Pop-unders are not "it."

Utilization of the page itself in a more effective manner is "it." Clutter still needs to be addressed. I still maintain that CBS Marketwatch, CNET and some of the gaming sites are doing the best jobs of offering effective ad units that speak to the audience. The New York Times' Surround Sessions are still one of the best models for reaching a consumer (as are any sites that offer these units in a tandem fashion). As of late I have also noticed ESPN and Sportsline are doing a good job of offering engaging ad models on pages that truly speak out and stand out against the clutter (and this is no easy task since Sports-sites are notoriously cluttered). Analysis of click-through vs. view-through is important and cannot be overlooked, though the industry needs to do some studies to determine what the correct latency for direct response conversion is considered acceptable for our advertising (how long after exposure to an online ad can we truly credit that ad for driving a latent reaction when there was no initial click-through)?

These may sound very basic to all of you, and that is a great thing. They are meant to be basic. One person I know calls it "blocking and tackling". You need to focus on the fundamentals of coverage before you can go deep on the pass (its football season, gotta use the analogy, Jason). We have a tendency to get all caught up on the cool things that the Internet can do for an advertiser, but we need to focus on the largest opportunity and the largest opportunity here is the direct correlation between what consumers are doing online, how they spend their time, and our budget allocation. If we cannot determine a way to effectively convey a message to a user for their 40% or more of their online experience, then we have no business expending our energy on the rest of it.

Content is still king, and there needs to be attention paid to how we can make content advertising work. The larger ad sizes on redesigned pages are still the best examples I have seen, and I think the industry is recognizing this. Let's hope to see some resolve on this soon. The sooner the better.

What do you think?

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