Vision from the top: Microsoft and competitor Yahoo! united to present one of the strongest arguments yet for online advertising's future.
It's a great time for online advertising. Not just because spend is growing at strong, steady rates. Not just because equity analysts and venture capitalists (VCs) are excited and found our phone numbers and email addresses (misplaced for the past three years). It's great because there's finally some real vision and leadership, which have been lacking for years.
Companies and leaders are stepping up with a real vision for the future and "big hairy audacious goals," as Jim Collins, author of "Built to Last" and "Good to Great" would say. I was fortunate to see Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stand before an audience of over 500 ad agency and marketing executives at MSN's Strategic Account Summit in Redmond two weeks ago to declare his vision: By 2010, a full 100 percent of advertising will be delivered across intelligent IP networks. He explained the reasoning, and it seems logical. Ballmer believes all media, from online to TV, from games and music to print, will be transmitted into homes through the Internet and routed to personal devices and applications through PCs and new digital entertainment platforms.
It doesn't matter whether he's right or whether it turns out 70, not 100, percent of media are digitally transmitted by 2010. What matters is the CEO of one the largest and most important companies in the world stepped up to the plate and articulated a vision that's both challenging and compelling. We need that. We must look beyond short-term issues. We must look to what's possible, not just what happened yesterday. That's how we'll grow.
MSN's conference hit all the right notes. It may have been one of the best industry events I've attended in my 13 years in online advertising. Here's why and why it's important to write about it two weeks after the fact.
I'm sure you've read about the event by now. Ballmer made headlines beyond his 100 percent solution vision, both for pronouncements on Microsoft's search strategy and for dodging questions regarding rumors of Microsoft acquiring AOL. Bill Gates (it was the first time since Ballmer became CEO that he and Gates both addressed a customer event) talked about the networked device future and advertising. Rex Briggs, probably the smartest media researcher practicing today, unveiled new and astounding research quantifying the power of online advertising to drive offline sales in consumer packaged goods and in automotive. Most important, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel courageously entered what many may have viewed as the enemy camp to talk about the industry's collective power, the importance of buying campaigns across major online networks, and the significance of industry standards.
There were strong messages behind the news hooks. The event was about the industry's maturity and a vision for its future:
It's a great time to be in interactive advertising. Given the strength of the numbers we're seeing (look at Monday's S-1 filing for Advertising.com's public offering, if you want to know how well some industry leaders are doing), it looks like we're going to make a strong run at the 100 percent solution.
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