Advertising Age & Web Marketing ala 1997

Ah, the joys of doing an Internet search on yourself. Here is an oldy but goody editorial I wrote for Advertising Age in May, 1997 on advertising agencies not getting into digital marketing fast enough. Remember… this is from 1997. I left Saatchi & Saatchi in 1995 to put newspapers online for Advance Publications. Yes, I invented the Internet with my friend Al. If you are an Advertising Age subscriber, you can see the editorial here.

Opinion: Have agencies lost their footing in Web marketing?

I’m worried that the advertising community is getting behind the curve when it comes to the Internet. Most clients are ahead of their agencies in understanding the value of Internet marketing–I know, because they’re coming to us to design their programs.

What’s holding agencies back? A love of proven media and maybe some myths.

1. Advertising agencies cannot make money planning and producing Web advertising.

Agency profits, strangled by clients during the past 10 years, don’t leave much room to dabble in new low cash-flow technologies. It’s easier to plan and buy TV.

However, almost every client is now marketing on the Web. Since the Web seems a bit better at direct response and promotion than brand building, I think it provides agencies with a great opportunity to grab from these other ripe budgets.

2. The only folks making money on the Web are pornographers.

Dell is selling $7 million worth of computers online every week. New Jersey’s Planet Honda has sold over $1 million worth of cars and parts off its site. Condomania is selling $1,000 worth of condoms every day off of a $10,000 Web site.

3. Banners do not work.

I worked in advertising for over 15 years, and the only time I could swear on a Bible that advertising had any direct effect on sales was when my airline client’s fare ads sent people to the counter. Now, when I look at my advertisers’ banner statistics, I know exactly what worked and what didn’t.

4. Web advertising will not work for mass brands.

Why not? Both men and women buy pasta, and when they’re online, they’re not using other media. Use the Web to leverage some of that mega co-op spend out there. Imagine a banner that says “50¢ off pasta today at A&P” and also links to that “brand-building” Italian odyssey site the creatives want to build.

5. The only big-time advertisers on the Web are large Web sites or technology companies.

Advertising follows the eyeballs. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users; TV, 13; cable, 10; and the Internet, five. That’s why a recent scan of “high-tech” Web advertisers included Rockport, Levi’s, Visa, Gatorade and Godiva.

6. Push is the future.

Maybe familiarity with broadcast is why the new “idea” of push is so beloved by the advertising industry. Pull is the power of the Internet. It may be hard to learn how to turn it into an advertising tool, but it is intrinsically more powerful and consumer-focused.

7. PointCast is push.

OK, I do like push. But sorry, guys, e-mail is the push God. E-mail is easy to use, it’s low-tech and highly targeted. There are more than 35 million Americans (70 million worldwide) using e-mail every day, while there are only 1 million active PointCast users. Pick one.

Peter Levitan is president of Advance Publications’New Jersey Online.

So, was I right? I was certainly opinionated. I am still.

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