Whether it's Search or Rich Media - It's Still The Users, Stupid

If you're like me, you occasionally have trouble explaining what we do to those outside of our industry who ask. These people aren't always my parents or their friends (though it seems like it). But, there is definitely a generational, digital divide, of course.

One of the things I usually attempt to explain is how media that they're familiar with works. If they grasp why advertising costs more on certain television programs, and what the differences are between advertising and direct marketing, then I can talk about the benefits of interactive, and why it's so cool.

At some point in the conversation, I'll get to Search and usually, that's where I'll lose them. But, sometimes, a little light goes on at that juncture. To many people, there is something intuitive about Search. The concept of monetizing Keywords really is fairly straightforward, and if you blend in the notions of true media, where the seller owns the eyeballs, and not just the content (in this case, the keywords), then this discussion usually takes an interesting turn.



I had one such discussion recently with a retired printer friend. Let's call him Sandy. Sandy wanted to know what the big deal was about this Google thing, and where its enormous valuations were coming from. When the discussion got to the part about Google's self-serve products, he really lit up, and said, "but doesn't Yahoo! have something like 100 million registered users? Surely, you're not counting them out."

Maybe Sandy knew more all along than he was letting on.

I have wondered out loud in this space why Yahoo! doesn't target its ads more effectively to its registered user base. But, the company certainly can't be faulted for how it enables its partners to leverage and monetize these perhaps 100 million registered users, which have to comprise one of the largest media assets anywhere.

Harris Interactive has done this very effectively in building its panels. And another company has recently seen its fortunes improve dramatically, thanks to an enhanced relationship with Yahoo!

I'm talking about Viewpoint, which saw its stock triple last spring on the news of its partnership with Yahoo!. Viewpoint's toolbar is made available to Yahoo! users every time they see a Viewpoint rich media ad. Within weeks, more than 1 million installed toolbars made this a media asset worth watching, and some of the creative was gorgeous.

Toyota used a branded toolbar to entice prospects to consider their cutting edge car, the Scion. The downloaded client enables graphically enhanced search for improved viewing of search results in the Yahoo! environment, while conversely creating a media channel direct to customers, enabling advertisers to build loyalty. There's that media asset thing again.

This way, Yahoo! enables its partner to build a significant media asset on its back, and everyone wins, since it's a completely opt-in scenario.

Marketers are always looking for new ways to reach target audiences and provide a communication channel for providing new offers and updates about their products and services. Viewpoint's Toolbar is a cool way for marketers to stay in constant contact with their audiences, who - remember - will have self-selected via the Search function, and build brand loyalty over time. It also offers the added benefit of delivering a mechanism for one-to-one marketing to each and every customer.

Best of all, at least in terms of this conversation with Sandy, it demonstrates that when media can be used to enable users to self-select, it will always be more effective. The larger and more targeted a media asset is, and the more exclusively it's owned and managed, the more valuable it is.

"We private label our toolbar to give marketers an "open channel" to their customers," said Lawrence Allen, VP, Technology for Viewpoint. "It takes their marketing from media to DM very quickly, and we anticipate seeing much more of this migration not less."

If you have conversations like the one with Sandy that I described, and you can get your listener to understand how the Web enables this kind of migration, they'll soon understand what's so cool about interactive.

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