The Online Snorklewacker … or Things That Keep Me Up At Night

My favorite comic strip of all time was Berke Breathed's Bloom County. Oh, come on. You remember – Bill the Cat, Opus the Penguin, Steve Dallas the incorrigible bachelor...

Bloom County first appeared in December of 1980, and the last strip ran on August 6, 1989. I was sad to see it go. One of the strip's recurring storylines involved Mike Binkley and his closet of anxieties. Binkley was a naive little boy, whose head was filled with the fears typical of a boy growing up in the Reagan '80s. Sometimes at night, after Binkley's dad tucked him into bed, a monster known as the Giant Purple Snorklewacker would emerge from Binkley's closet and terrorize him with the types of things that young boys had nightmares about in the 1980s. MX missiles, Jesse Helms lecturing on how Martin Luther King was a communist, Fidel Castro, a gaggle of gremlins that resembled political figures of the day – these are just a few of the things that the Snorklewacker would call forth from the closet of anxieties.



I have my own anxiety closet. There are uncertainties concerning the online marketing business that keep me up at night. (My Giant Purple Snorklewacker resembles Michael Tchong of Iconocast fame for some strange reason, but hey – that's my psyche. Take it or leave it.)

Anyway, this week I thought I'd share some of the fears that are lurking in the darkest corner of my anxiety closet. Here goes...

  1. Integrated metrics never get off the ground - We've had the ability to accurately gauge reach and frequency in our online campaigns for a while now. The next step, currently in development, is the ability to use predictive tools to gauge reach and frequency before a campaign runs. But even this development won't ensure that web GRPs will easily mix with offline GRPs. Offline GRPs are typically bought against basic demographic audiences, while web activity tends to be purchased against lifestyles and psychographics, with no guarantee of reach against a given target. Even when predictive modeling tools are available, we still won't have the complete picture. Sites will need to learn a lot more about their audiences and how those audiences fall into simple demographic buckets if we want truly integrated metrics. My fear is that site adoption of audience analytic tools will happen slowly and that advertisers and agencies will get fed up.
  2. The accountability double standard continues ad infinitum and ad nauseum - Quite a few marketers have predicted that the web's superior accountability, coupled with a demand on the part of advertisers for more accountable marketing programs, will force all media under the accountability microscope. My fear is that the web will continue to be held to performance standards that other media are not, forcing more unfair comparisons and reinforcing the current double standard.
  3. Federal government regulation of commercial e-mail - The rules concerning the regulation game are simple. Industries must regulate themselves before things get out of hand and government intervention becomes a necessity. We see this in action in every business sector across the globe. I get scared when I see how the spam industry always manages to stay three or four steps ahead of ISPs and others involved in the anti-spam crusade. Every spoofed email header, hacked sendmail script and non-permission based bulk mailing brings us closer to government regulation. Trust me – the U.S. Government doesn't "get" the Internet. They've demonstrated it time and again. These are the last people we want to "help" us with our unsolicited commercial email problem. Legitimate email marketing is in jeopardy.
  4. Investors in Internet media companies continue to run amuck - Having worked at a public Internet company during the dot com boom, I never thought I would say this: Investors have no patience and they're setting unrealistic expectations for Internet businesses, especially those involved in Internet advertising. Investors would love to see a lot of the larger media conglomerates get out of the Internet advertising business altogether. After all, it would increase the value of their investment in the short term. But public companies need to be given the time and space to build their businesses over the course of several years, not several months. I worry constantly that media CEOs will cave to investor pressure and start dumping their online media businesses.
  5. Process development stalls - A common complaint from clients is that the process of planning and launching online media campaigns simply takes too much time. Agency-side ad management tools have helped streamline processes by incorporating planning and RFP tools into their offering. This shaves man-hours off the bottom line, which is great. But we still need to see innovation in operations, such that no client ever complains about sluggishness ever again. I worry sometimes that we'll get to a point at which we can't streamline things any further. Or worse yet, that we come up with a streamlined process that drains all the creativity out of online media planning.

    These are the things keeping me up at night. What's in your anxiety closet? Tell me all about it on the Spin Board.

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