Big bucks go to broadcast and pocket change to online. When will online get a break?
Maybe it's the onslaught of Advertising Week in NYC or just some lunar cycle that gives rise to the subject of production budgets. Or maybe it's the 800-pound gorilla in the advertising agency's living room we just can't avoid anymore.
In previous columns, I've written about money and creative budgets. In fact, the basis of a lot of what I spew about is rooted in one question: how much did that cost?
In "The Cost of Brilliance," I wrote how most online marketers must create while they live in a budget vacuum every day. Yet in "The Paradox of Quality," we find a cognitive dissonance between what people buy for their homes and are willing to accept on their computers for quality video.
Though these may be subjects that we're all familiar with now, most professionals in the online advertising industry still live in a world perceived to be expensive to buy space for but cheap to create. Compare that to the broadcast world where everything is expensive, right down to the fancy catering.
In a lot of ways, the interdepartmental bickering about budgets distracts from the two major business influences.
First, broadcast is expensive, but it makes agencies lots of money. The more you do for a client, the better it gets. By "better" I mean the more efficient and, thus, more profitable it can become. A great creative team, a happy client with a big budget -- and it's gravy train time.
But situations like these are going the way of the dodo.
Second, the client is the major factor in what gets money. A fat budget equals TV and plenty of reach. A fatter one tops off frequency to the hilt.
For online professionals, many of these scenarios are rare, if not nonexistent. So when the great debate of who gets the money comes to advertising media's forefront, we're more than likely to end up responding the same old way.
Funny thing is, this was my first question when I started in the online industry. After 10 years of pre-Internet broadcast and print work, I wanted to know why all these cool Internet people were being starved for production budgets. Granted, things have gotten much better since the days of Netscape 1.0 and GIF banners. But still not in direct measure to the amount of eyes online compared to TV sets around the world.
That's really where the scales can tip in online's direction -- when clients and advertising agencies alike get used to the idea of their money going into the great unknown of online media. Not that these same people aren't doing that now, but in many ways they're still intermediately engaged in online. And to the new-to-the-Internet client, the idea of social media is akin to sacrilege for the brand deities they are sent to protect.
So where does all this net out? Will budgets equalize? Will there ever be a big-budget online campaign?
I'd say yes, but we may not be around to see it happen in our career lifetime. Like the idea of a colony on Mars, we are restricted by the mental and physical realities of our modern age. Plentiful bandwidth, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, and interactive environments will be a few of the factors that greatly impact the idea of an interactive campaign over today's passive TV experience.
Until then, we can bicker all we like and strive to create with less than our older cousins in offline advertising get to spend on an ad. Oh, and the catering too.
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Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.
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