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Sunday, March 16

Are Advertising & the Web Disjoint Sets?

There is this excellent article on Adage.com about - Advertising and the Internet. Check it out here...

Notes to myself peppered with stray thots!

- When you look at how the media and marketing business packages the Internet - as just more space to be bought and sold -- you have to worry that the history of mass media is just trying to repeat itself.

And what an utter waste of time, money and effort that would be. It's so very easy to escape banner ads and the ilk on the web. Am a fairly heavy user of the net and I have developed advanced screening faculties for every kind of conventional ad. On the other hand, when a marketer succeeds in engaging me through content or 'value-added-ads', I not just consume it but help seed it in my limited way!

-Rarely a fortnight goes by without some new bullish forecast for ad growth that works to stoke digital exuberance within media owners that often drowns out critical thinking about the medium itself.

Am yet to hear a conversation on digital/ internet advertising among mainstream ad folks in India. It just doesn't exist for them!! In fact an exuberant NCD of a large agency was quoted in DNA saying who needs digital? While the size of internet ad might be puny in India, the learning ground for the next level of messaging/ marketing/ communication has to be the web...

-Here's the issue: The internet is too often viewed as inventory, as a place where brands pay for the privilege of being adjacent to content, like prime-time TV and glossy magazines relics of the pre-blog days when getting into the media game actually required infrastructure and distribution.

The presumed power of that adjacency has provided the groundwork for the media industry for decades and long ago calcified into an auspicious economic reality the big media companies are trying to take with it to the digital future. For the media seller, ads and ad revenue might be all that's left.

- The marketer, once at the mercy of a locked-up media landscape, can now be a player in it.

- "The big difference is that marketers are in the same competitive set as media owners," said Matt Freeman, CEO of Tribal DDB. He cites Pepsi, one of Tribal's clients, as an example of a company that could be a giant media player if it wanted.

It doesn't want to because the big traffic it gets at its corporate websites has nothing to do with how it's valued. But the twist on media and marketing convention is clear.

"Before there was an investor and a recipient of that investment. I think today you have much more of a triangulation where marketers can invest directly in going to consumers, obviating the need for media owners. They are not necessarily the client of owners and, in some cases, they are their competitors."

- In other words, marketers can build website that do cool, useful stuff. There are any number of marketers, from Amazon to Papa John's, working to monetize their corporate websites traffic by selling ads there, but that, of course, is only the most mundane way. Better examples include Johnson & Johnson and its BabyCenter, a deep repository of information about raising a newborn that's a clear competitor to Bonnier or Meredith, the publishers of Parenting and Parents magazines respectively.

Nike Plus, whose sharp interface connects runners all over the world, is a real threat to any traditional media owners who wants to engage with that running population.

- Although Mr. Freeman often sounds like he's borrowing from the lexicon of PR, his idea of "earned media" or "earned engagement" isn't the same as landing a client brand in the New York Times. It's a more varied concept that encompasses everything from branded applications and services like the Nike-Plus program to videos passed along through sharing sites. These programs, now exceptions, could actually work to redefine advertising.

- "People have to think about advertising differently," said Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic, the interactive agency recently purchased by WPP Group. "Advertising is becoming not just about messaging but providing value to customers. Functionality has often not been the role of advertising."

I have been arguing with some of the brightest ad agency copy-writers. Think beyond 'taglines'. Think about usefulness. Make your ads 'active'. Give more information about the brand. When we repeat the messages, the consumer filters them all.

- For marketers and agencies it's a sea-change in how you do your business. "It's easy for clients and agencies to think about banners and email because buying banners is like buying outdoor and email is like direct," said Mr. Kaufman of ad agency Schematic. "That is very different than nurturing the community of your customers, providing great content or executing transactions."

- Web designer Jakob Nielsen adds -'The basic point about the web is that it is not an advertising medium. The web is not a selling medium;it is a buying medium. It is user controlled, so the user controls, the user experiences.'

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