Let’s Get Ready to Do Business… Again

Everywhere I go lately, whether it be last month’s iMedia Conference in New Mexico or last week’s @d:tech Conference in LA, Interactive business turnaround is discussed.

Let there be no question about it, those in the know are bullish about the next couple of quarters. It ranges from amazement that this summer “does not suck” as far as business, to tremendous optimism relative to what fourth quarter is looking like.

Which, when you think about it is downright amazing. The number of hits that the Interactive media business has taken would kill most categories. How many other industries can survive the outright demise of so many companies in their biggest category (Internet/e-commerce advertisers) and still be around, let alone be bullish.

When I talk to major Interactive agency leaders, they talk cautiously about how clients have stabilized and are actually growing again. The “born again” preaching of profitability rather than revenues has a nice ring to it. Even if many companies are smaller than they thought they would be during the run up. Much of this is due to the broadening of the advertising sales appeal. No longer is the category dependent upon the endemic categories. After all, if we can make bar soap advertising work on the Web, we can probably sell just about anything.



This brings me to the issues I have been thinking about. What can we do to make this go around more efficient? The first is pretty basic: Broadscale adoption of V 2.0 of Standard Interactive Insertion Order T’s & C’s as recommended by the AAAA’s and the IAB.

Mediasmith has issued these, without changes to the sites that we do business with regularly (if you have not seen a copy and would like one, let me know…Mediasmith only does business with sites that have signed these). A great number of sites have already signed this document. A small few have come back, asking for modifications (some minor and some major). I understand that some agencies are also modifying this before they send it to sites.

We think that modification is obstructive. Do we love everything in the Ts & Cs? No. That’s why we are going to support the industry efforts to get back to the table for a version 3.0 and as many iterations as are necessary to get all of the kinks worked out. We have issues with some of the wording that we’d like to tweak. We also would like to see a clear data ownership section. We think that the general liability section is overly slanted towards the sites. But, despite out concerns, we will sign this “as is” in the interest of the business. Why? Because if we change them, they are not “standard.” And the complexity of doing business comes back. These were meant to simplify business and make it more efficient for both sites and agencies to affordably be in the Interactive advertising business.

So, when sites ask for modifications (most of which are minor business issues or their lawyer wanting their own way), just say no. The reality is that if a site wants to start the modification trail, we are going to come back to the table with our concerns too. Then we have lack of standardization and inefficiency. At the same time, we think that the sites should push back on agencies that flex their “clout” and demand changes. We believe that those agencies should join the AAAA committee and make their voices heard for version 3.0. Other media have standard terms and conditions that agencies and media vendors do not change on an order-by-order basis. If the Interactive media community (buyers and sellers) wants to join the big time, it needs to standardize, then “work from within” to make changes.

We need to remember how inefficient the business was “last time around.” It is time for everyone to make some compromises and get back to the business of selling client products and services. Making minor changes on industry standard documents is a waste of everyone’s time.

Next week, I am going to continue this thread with some other ideas relative to getting back to business. If you have some ideas, let me know. I will try to include them.

Forget the volume that we fantasized about. Let’s make the business profitable and grow it from there.

David L. Smith, President and Media Director of Mediasmith, Inc. in San Francisco is a nationally known expert in the areas of new media application, media strategy and media planning. A thirty-seven year veteran in the advertising media management arena, Smith has a major involvement in national committee work to establish and refine standards in metrics, business practices and financial issues for Interactive advertising with organizations such as the AAAA's, IAB, OPA and the ARF. He currently chairs the Online Reach & Frequency Committee for the ARF.

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