Depth of addiction and of "Net narcissism" aside, the two of us seem to be in agreement that Web marketing is effective—especially when used in tandem with other media and in ways that respect the user—and is likely to grow larger and more important with the passage of time. Yes, it has more evolving to do, but it is evolving fast.
We also agree—I a little more than you—that the hysterics associated with online advertising and marketing have been washed away by the cold reality of the past two years. The sellers and publishers of media for the most part are far more professional and reasoned than ever before. The prices are lower. The ranges of creative possibilities are exploding. The proof of performance and delivery against a host of objectives is irrefutable. Any reader of this discussion who is willing to spend an hour browsing the online industry sites of the Internet Advertising Bureau or Online Publishers Association will see a plethora of independent research, success stories, and compelling creativity with minimal heavy breathing or ranting to become a believer in the future of Web marketing.
But even with all the Darwinian improvement to the medium with enabling technology, enhanced research, and streamlined standards; even with cross-media studies that show the compelling results of incorporating the Web into campaigns; even with the growth of households, increased usage, and gains in broadband, something seems to be holding back Internet-based (whether solo or in combo with other media) advertising from explosive growth and achieving its true potential.
I believe the enemy is us.
It is us on the buy side. Agencies, creative professionals, account planners, media buyers, as well as our clients and the industry periodicals we read. Over the past two years, the sell side has changed with new people, new approaches, and a far greater flexibility to try anything. The medium has improved. The measurement possibilities are far more sophisticated than clicks. The consumer is using the medium more. All the while most clients and their agents have reduced their resources and talent covering the Web to a skeleton or nonexistent staff. This extends to the major ad and marketing industry periodicals. Ad Age or Brand Week has puny coverage of this medium, treating digital media like soiled goods.
We got spooked by the meltdown. We find the medium difficult to work with. Client organizations do not know how to organize or compensate for this medium. Senior management hopes to retire before the future hits them. The best creative and planning talent is not putting its mind to this. It is so much cheaper to buy 30-second spots when clients are cutting fees rather than mucking through this really difficult stuff. We can measure against objectives and not clicks or impressions but few do. This stuff is hard.
So, instead of changing our organizations, instead of finding ways to deliver today's numbers while investing in preparing for tomorrow, instead of hiring new talent and developing new ways to get compensated and new ways to measure success, we blame the dot-com wreck and excesses of the past or blame the salespeople or blame Wall Street.
The consumer will be there. The enabling technology will be there. When the marketing community gets there, the Internet and convergent advertising will achieve its potential. And if we don't, someone else will.
What do you think?