OK, I'll bite.
But I do so reluctantly. I don't really see it as the responsibility of us on "the buy side" to fix this problem. My job is to provide my clients with advertising, marketing, and media work that help them sell more stuff. My not-very-hidden agenda while doing that is to try in some small way to lower the overall toxicity of advertising. More crap equals a harder job for us in the business of selling things, just as more volume in a bar makes it harder for anyone to be heard. If people hated less advertising, they'd be more open to marketing messages. I tend to gravitate toward media that allow us to craft ads that people will actually like (likability correlates highly with effectiveness), and online media hasn't been very good at creating those opportunities, focused instead on ever sneakier ways to annoy people. Rich media obviously are good at that, but in spite of your enthusiasm for them, not enough people have the capability to use them to make it a smart buy for most clients.
How do we fix the problem? Or, rather, how do the people whose jobs depend on it fix it? I'm going to quote an e-mail from a smart friend, Nigel Carr (GM of k/b/p San Francisco), whom you know: "I think there's a bigger issue, and Rishad has to stop whining and face up to it: effectiveness. Online advertising was pushed initially as a profitable direct response medium and it just didn't pay out. Then they got Rex Briggs, et al., to cook up some research that said it was the greatest branding medium of all time, but—hello!—it doesn't work as well as offline to build emotional relationships quickly. Meanwhile, despite all the hype and overclaims, there has been very little PROFITABLE (to clients) innovation on the advertising front outside of a few incredibly sticky sites. Where are the thought leaders and innovators? What are Rishad and the rest of them doing? Because if they're just sitting around a table standardizing sizes, that isn't enough."
The reason, as you say, that clients and agents have reduced resources and talent against Web marketing is that it HASN'T WORKED VERY WELL. Many were burned, few were rewarded. The first thing that people on the sell side have to do is eat a little humble pie and move on.
And the first thing they need to move on to is figuring out what their medium (media, actually, since the Internet probably won't conform to a one-size-fits-all advertising model) is best at, rather than claiming that it's better than everything else at everything. In my own experience, for clients that depend on a degree of mass appeal, it's been best at adding very targeted bells and whistles to an integrated media plan, promoting things like sales in environments where people are very predisposed to care, and giving more information and community via Web sites to people who are drawn by offline advertising to want those things. What these examples have in common is that they use the Internet in combination with other media, usually as a supporting player. The opportunities to be a great supporting player are bound to increase as media converge. I'd like online sellers to make clear what they can bring to the party, rather than demanding that the party be all about them. This would make it easier to sell Internet advertising to my clients, which is, I'm pretty sure, the responsibility of the people on the sell side.
If you're on the case, Rishad, I'm confident that the evolution of the Internet as an advertising medium will move along quickly and in the right direction. And though I'm skeptical of your boosterism, I admire your passion. Thanks for the discussion.