2004: What a Year!

Most likely, you’ll read many year-in-review columns before the end of 2004. I want to offer this column before your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of “the best of 2004.”

It’s been quite a year for online advertising. If you’re like my agency and most of the industry people I’ve talked to, you’re busier than ever. Maybe even busier than during the boom. Business is definitely coming back. And companies operate in a much leaner manner than in 1999, which means we’re ever-more productive. How can we complain? This is fantastic.

Many of us are working with much bigger budgets than 2003’s. We’re seeing interest from more and more “traditional” brands. Can we even use the term “traditional” anymore? If most of these brands embrace interactive, doesn’t that disqualify them from being “traditional”? Even better, will a day come when brands that do on- and offline are the norm, are “traditional”? Will that come in 2005? Is it already here?

2004 may not have seen a lot of brand-new stuff, but it did usher in the widespread adoption of some great stuff, including technology platforms and buying strategies. Here are some of 2004’s trends in online media:

  • Behavioral targeting. One sign an interactive marketing strategy has made it is when ClickZ dedicates a content category to it. Behavioral targeting has been around for years, but it’s just now starting to gain traction in the market. A lot of great things are happening with behavioral targeting, not the least of which is a generally accepted definition of it. For years, this was one of the most misused terms in our industry. No more. Now we all understand it and are talking about the same thing.

    We can target users based on an expressed behavior that may represent a level of receptivity to an ad message, even when they aren’t actively engaged in that behavior. You all know or should know who Tacoda and RevenueScience are. And many of you are experimenting with the strategy. Though it’s not new, I’m glad to see it take hold. I’m sure there’s more to come.

  • Online video. It’s finally happening. Internet users now have the bandwidth to experience video, and advertisers are learning to better leverage their video assets online. We’re seeing more interactive video experiences, not just repurposed TV commercials. Clients are coming to online because their TV dollars aren’t going as far as they used to. We still have to train clients to negotiate Internet rights for talent and music prior to production rather than it being an afterthought. But we’ll get past that, maybe in 2005.

    One disappointment is some publishers hesitate to run the Unicast Video Commercial because they can’t deliver the campaign impressions promised to the advertiser. Apparently, users don’t stay on a page long enough for the ad to fully load, so the publisher misses out on charging for the impression. Again, maybe 2005 will bring an answer to this question. It’s been a great year for online video nonetheless.

  • Larger file sizes.A few years ago, we started developing microsites as part of our online campaigns. They’re a great way to create a seamless brand experience from the campaign to the brand Web site. Back then, the microsite would pop over the publisher’s content so users could interact with the brand as long as they wanted. When they were done, one click (the close button) brought them back to whatever they were doing.

    Today, there’s no need for a microsite. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has increased file size standards. Publishers allow those larger file sizes and technology platforms such as Eyeblaster, PointRoll, Unicast, and United Virtualities to offer ad units with increased interactivity. My agency has just launched an ad for the Hyundai Tucson that allows the user to roll over the car to see various features, build and price the car, view our television commercials, and take a 360-degree look at the car — all within the ad unit.

These are just a few of 2004’s notable achievements. As we finish 2004, think back on what a great year you’ve had. I’d love to hear what you think were the year’s most memorable advancements in our industry and what 2005 has in store for us.

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