Commentary

The Rise, Fall and Success of The Great Web

By Michael Kubin, co-CEO, LWA

Six reasons why the Web is failing as an advertising medium, and four reasons why it will succeed.

Why it's failing:

1. The media recession. Regardless of whether there is a recession in the overall economy, media is suffering badly. A recent Myers Report projected a 23% decrease in total media spending this year, and a projected 32% decrease in Web advertising. And television, usually most marketers' first choice, is softer than it has been in recent memory. That leaves little chance for the lesser media (of which the Web is one).

2. Wildly overblown expectations. Over the past several years the Web was trumpeted as the perfect advertising medium, reaching perfectly targeted audiences with incredible effectiveness. Well, not quite. When the success stories didn't materialize, the whole thing became a textbook example of "The Emperor Has No Clothes" and demand for Web advertising shrank.

3. Misinterpretation of the Web as an advertising medium. Historically, advertising agencies have shied away from accountability in advertising. "Direct response" has been taboo at many agencies, with creative and account people seeing it as a second-class form of advertising. Since the Web has the potential for being the most accountable of all media, agencies have not been eager to use it in that way. As a consequence, much of the creative advertising work that has appeared on the Web has been used for branding and has turned out dull, lame, and ineffective.

4. Marketers have not directed their agencies. The Web is not a primary medium; it works best when it is part of multi-media campaigns. Marketers have not insisted that their agencies coordinate their online and offline functions, often resulting in Web campaigns that don't tie into any of their other efforts. That turns into money wasted in exchange for no results.

5. Success is being measured with a bad metric. Who ever came up with 'cost per click' as the ultimate measure of Web advertising success? Are roadside billboards measured that way? Is television? As Shakespeare would say, the industry is being 'hoist with its own petard.' The impact of any media campaign needs to take into account all the various ways in which it impacts on the consumer: visibility, reach, frequency, and action. Cost per click is way to narrow a gauge.

6. Web industry has done a lousy job of education. Marketers and their agencies need to become much more familiar with all the various technologies, creative strategies, promotional tools, and buying tactics available on the Web. No one has taken the point on doing this, which has resulted in a large number of dissatisfied Web advertisers.

Why it will succeed:

1. The Web is virtually risk-free. Advertisers can buy Web impressions for 50 cents a thousand-a fraction of the cost of other media. At that absurdly low cost, one can sell ketchup Popsicles to white-gloved ladies. And while it's clear that costs will eventually rise, for now it's the bargain of the decade.

2. The number of eyeballs is increasing. Marketers cannot resist a medium that attracts consumers, and the Web has grown more quickly than any other medium - and continues to grow. Advertising dollars will inevitably follow.

3. Ultimate accountability. The Web is best at providing detailed statistics on everything to viewership, clickthrough, and ultimate purchase. No other medium can do it as well, and marketers will soon wake up to what a great tool the Web really is.

4. Technical flexibility. The Web is unique in providing a powerful and flexible platform for a limitless variety of creative technologies. And marketers selling virtually anything will find the appropriate way to promote it and put it in front of just the right audience.

And while, in the words of Mae West, "it's gonna be a bumpy ride", eventually we will get there. Wherever 'there' is.

-- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of New York-based Leading Web Advertisers (LWA) - http://www.web-advertisers.com - a comprehensive Web advertisement monitoring service. He may be reached at mkubin@web-advertisers.com.

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