Advertising that Clicks!

Advertising that Clicks!
by Andrew Szabo

If the “Internet changed everything,” then by definition, advertising on the Internet changed how we market. Brand-building is passé and straight selling is in; we’ve moved from “spray and pray” to ROI; from boring banners to targeted, content-rich communications; users tune out the irrelevant and engage in “permission” marketing.

“Like almost everyone else, advertisers are logging on. Advertising spending on the Internet will rise from $3.3 billion in 1999 to $33 billion by 2004, roughly 8% of all advertising, according to predictions by Forrester Research, a high-tech consultancy. A third of this will be spent outside North America, compared with 15% today. Whereas television audiences are falling, the popularity of the Web is rising rapidly. Three years from now, as many as 250 million people may well be online around the world.” – The Economist, October 1999

Everyone in marketing today is talking of the Web as a new advertising medium, but few appear to know how to make the best use of it. Most still “spray and pray,” throwing money at the Web in the hope of reaching a mass audience and building a brand, just as they did in the broadcast world. Unfortunately, this diminishes one of the Internet’s most powerful attributes: that it is interactive and relational by nature. By allowing users and marketers to talk directly with each other, in real time, advertisers can discover what someone browsing on the Internet is looking at and, by tracking such behavior, what their real interests might be. They can instantly put forward a custom-made offer. It is my contention that the Internet will on an unprecedented scale become for many organizations the delivery mechanism that truly delivers on the original 1:1 marketing promise.

The Internet may also instantly reveal whether an advertisement is working. Although this idea terrifies some agencies and marketing consultants, not The Marketing Chef! We are eager to measure something that has in  traditional marketing been largely guesswork. For the first time, we can truly  measure a client’s marketing return on investment. And by more effectively  communicating the right message, to the right target audience efficiently,  you should also save money.

How people use the Web is changing. Now that the novelty of randomly exploring the World Wide Web has diminished, “click-through” rates (CTR) on banners have dropped to as little as 0.5% of the times a banner is displayed. Susan Bratton, a vice president at Excite, a Web portal, complains that the worst advertisements are “endlessly looping, strobing, cheesy banners that obnoxiously scream out a free offer.” But users are more interested than ever in content. Some of the most effective advertisements are such examples as links in book reviews to the website of Amazon. People are starting to use the Internet with more purpose.

Yet novelty on the Web is easily imitated and soon wears off. Most marketers will continue to rely on offline media to build their brands. IBM, the second-biggest advertiser on the Internet in 1998, says that those who think the Web is for building brands are “kidding themselves.” Dot-coms and Dot- bombs especially, found that branding needed coordinated on- and offline campaigns. New brands need to be promoted where most of the people are:  offline.

In addition, we are beginning to see a new phenomenon: “Website distribution.” Instead of attempting to lure users to one’s website, marketers are placing the relevant parts of their site in a rich-media banner or an e-mail sent directly to the target audience. The banner, e-mail or content/link is the “electronic envoy” of your business. For example, users can see video clips and views of the different Lexus models, get a brochure and find the nearest dealer, without ever visiting Toyota’s main website. Similarly, Sony Pictures promoted their film, “Muppets from Space,” using a banner that allowed users to download a free Muppets screensaver, shows a trailer and offers a game, all within the banner.

To direct the right message to the right audience requires what I call “customer knowledge.” As collaborators with our clients, we need to understand not only the target’s demographics (details such as age, income, address, position, etc.) but also the psychographics of the user’s browsing and shopping habits, which technology can certainly support. As a consequence, the phenomenon of “permission marketing” is becoming a driving force in attainment of customer knowledge. It empowers the user to enter into an interesting new advertising value proposition: the exchange of personal information and preferences for receiving advertising that is personally relevant. Several examples of these alliances between advertising and the consumer have become very successful: My Points, ClickRewards, as well as individual websites like E-trade.

In conclusion, it is apparent that marketing using the Web medium not only requires a paradigm shift in new thinking but an adaptability to the very nature of the way the Web behaves. Just when we begin to gain understanding of the medium, we can fully expect that it has or will change. The Web changes everything or everything within the Web is changing? We look forward to being your collaborators in thinking and creatively making your Web strategy an integral part of your marketing success.

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