Is the Ballyhoo Back?

Breathe. Find a quiet space, and still place. Are your chakras aligned? Were any of you reading through your third eye this week?

Well, if you were you might have seen a page-one article in the Wall Street Journal this week (Wednesday, February 25, 2004) with the headline "After Wave of Disappointments, The Web Lures Back Advertisers."

It's true. Typically, the WSJ has been the journalistic pantheon of Internet advertising ignorance. In the days of old, the paper never passed up an opportunity to hype an Internet stock while denigrating the idea of online being a viable advertising medium. When the dot-com-fueled bubble burst, the WSJ led the charge against the notion of advertising on the Internet with anger-cum- Schadenfreude. So, imagine my joy and surprise to have read a story in the venerated publication that looked favorably on the medium.

But I don't want to spend time talking about the representation of the online advertising medium in the business press.

Rather, something that coverage of a major advertiser or product category tends to elicit from within the online advertising industry, is discussion about just how much money should be put toward online advertising.



This is a theme that always comes around and every time it does, the discussion becomes mired in distractions involving beliefs about value, the power of the Internet, comparisons of online to television, and the Internet's claim to superior accountability. Of course, all of these are interesting, important, and valuable components of any discussion revolving around the use of online as an advertising medium.

Invariably, however, people start to ask, "where is my piece of the pie?," and then, "why isn't my piece of the pie bigger?!"

But questions like these miss the point. I've written in this column before about the problem with asking these questions. The questions are typically, how much spending as a percentage of overall ad spend do folks believe online should receive, and how much SHOULD it actually get.

Marketers always like to ask the question, "How much should I be spending in a particular medium?" People working in online think their medium should get more than it does. But people working in outdoor think that outdoor should get a larger piece of the pie. And folks in print think that magazines should get more. And folks in radio think they should get more. And, strange as it might seem, TV people think they should get more. Ad infinitum...

The question about what percentage of spending any single medium should get is the wrong question to ask. The reason a particular medium is used in the marketing mix is its ability to deliver on a communication delivery objective.

Each media has a particular strength that another does not, and when putting together a media plan, it is essential to know which medium does what, and how much of what each one does, does it need to do. This means that the real question to ask is how much media WEIGHT do I need to run in a particular medium? Cost and opportunity is what dictates percentage of spend, not a given medium's "appropriateness" to the media mix.

An example: Let's say I've put together a media plan of TV, print, and online. Let's assume that the communication delivery necessary for maximizing my campaign's effectiveness is to split the media weight evenly for each media ---TV, print, and online need to run one million impressions each. But TV is a $10 CPM, print is a $20 CPM, and online is a $5 CPM. I end up with 29 percent of my budget going to TV, 57 percent going to print, and 14 percent going to online.

We've got to keep in mind that it is the COST of media in relation to required weight that serves as the real determinate for percentage of spend, and not the "rightness" of any one media over another.

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