UTNE Reader Project, June 98'

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Answers UTNE Reader, June 1998 Romancing the Net Randall Rothenberg Submitted by Karen S. Rigdon The Net Worth of Web Advertising By Karen S. Rigdon

Upon the eve of every new invention, a naove populous cannot foresee what monsters have been created that could possibly forever change their culture in a multitude of ways. Recall Henry Ford's automobile and reflect on the gargantuan influence his invention had on our society's mobility. On the flip side, decades later, the air we breathe has forever been changed by the auto's invasive emissions. Hence, new regulations, acts, and laws must be adopted and embraced to control the out-of-control monsters of invention.

With the wisdom gained from hindsight, we can make predictions about the future of everything from genetic engineering to communities in space. In his article "Romancing the Net", from the UTNE READER, June 1998, Randall Rothenberg makes the prediction that "Big Media is creating a monster ( WWW ) that will someday swallow it whole." He is referring to the advertisers and their agencies who have broken with traditional advertising and are now "exploiting the buzz of the Web"; in the interest of self-interest.

Rothenberg maintains that in order to understand the future disintegration of Big Media you must become familiar with the "Knowability Paradox". In essence, this conveys that the effectiveness of a single element in a complex system is nearly impossible to measure. For example, isolating advertising from production, distribution, sales, and communication will lead you to uncertainty because "no one understands how, or even if, advertising works". In the light of this inscrutability, advertising businesses continue to boom and the Net is the latest hot spot for creative gimmicks with "subversive power". The Net is different, though, because it is accountable, states Rothenberg. This means that marketers can now count how many people click on their Web ads and open them up to read. Proctor and Gamble compensates its online media outlets on the basis of clickthroughs. This practice stirs the pot of sheer fear with traditional advertisers who are now competing with new media technologies that reduce costs, provide possible customer counts, and have the edge on sophistication and flair.

The bottom line, according to my interpretation of Rothenberg's article, is that companies eventually won't blindly spend on advertising anymore. They will balance profits and the advertising budgets as a result of the clickthrough counts. Rothenberg's climatic prediction declares, "If quality information and entertainment are to survive, the consumer will have to make up the difference".

The consumer making up the difference is a scenario far too familiar - health care, welfare reform, school referendum taxes, etc. The customer making up the difference has almost become an evolutionary universal law. We have come to expect it but we still groan when those laws actually materialize.

My personal use of advertising has employed "spring board" ads in the local newspaper. I run an ad to attract new clients, offer that client an incentive to bring in more customers, and then rely on word- of-mouth advertising. This works extremely well in small towns if your first customer was pleased with your services.

To date, I have not advertised on the Web. I find advertising on the Net to be as annoying, pesky, and inconvenient as hungry mosquitoes on a sizzling summer day. The ads cover up the web sites that I would like to view. I must spend precious time swatting at the X's to remove the sponsor's ads from my screen. Will these ads eventually be layers thick and use up more of my time ? Perhaps a new market could be created to remedy this dastardly situation. State of the art computer software that will erase all Web advertising as efficiently as computer virus software eliminates viruses!

After reading this article, however, I felt enlightened. I thought about my favorite free greeting card web site and my friend who recently endured a knee replacement. I sent him an animated, musical get well card ( free ) from the site. I did one thing differently this time before E-mailing the card. I clicked on two of the sponsor's ads!! Keep clickingto keep the clickthough counts upto keep a good thing or two going.


My colleagues from KGHS Radio in International Falls had some interesting responses and input to my article and inquiries. They insisted that the Net has no response formula. You can count the clickthroughs but you can't count the customers who actually are making the purchases due to the ad at a later date. They also felt that the Net was becoming overwhelming and was nearing information overload. The marketers, they contended, have begun to sellout for a quick, cheap, and easy gimmick. But keep in mind that "the customer's psychological makeup has basically not changed over the years", stated Nancy Kantor. "People just can't be sucked in any easier. It's the micro-parts of advertising that have changed".

At KGHS, it was a unanimous feeling that radio advertising was the most human form of advertising. "The human voice has appeal. The frequency of radio ads serves as friendly reminders with human appeal. You just can't come close to that on a computer".

"Will there be no distinction between retail and image advertising due to transactional counts on the Net ?", I questioned the KGHS staff. I, of course, spoke with confidence so that I may have appeared to have understood the question I asked. The staff answered by educating me on the five components of a retail ad. 1. The offer 2. The price 3. The asking for customer action. Stop by, phone, etc. 4. The creation of urgency. Now, while supplies last, etc. 5. The theme or hook. Third Anniversary Sale, Hunting Season Sale, etc.

Then we discussed image advertising that positions the business in the customer's mind. Image ads are emotive, they use a soft sell technique. There is no urgency created in an image ad. They deal with how the customer feels and thinks about the business. Think of them as approachable and humanitarian.

In conclusion, I ponder the following questions. Will retail and image advertising differences eventually disappear ? Will marketing as we know it be wiped away by the "knowing" NET? Will we, as consumers, be forced to make up the difference for quality information and entertainment? And, will it all be the fault of the accountability of the Net? Please ask me again in the year 2010 when I have gained wisdom from hindsight.

-- Anonymous, November 04, 1998

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