Boxed in by Advertising?

The online media space has not only transformed but also evolved over the past eight years. Have advertising opportunities? As a focus group of one here, I’ve come full circle in my thinking.

Let me explain. I find myself having the same discussions, giving the same presentations, and answering virtually the same questions I did eight years ago.

Look back to ’94. Do you remember what this space was called? New media? How many times today has that term been used? Those who were “evolved” then called it “online media,” “interactive media,” or “electronic media.” These terms were dropped. “I-media” and “e-media” were thrown about. I always stuck with “interactive” because it was safe. Truth be told, no one ever knew what the heck it meant. When asked what we did, I used to say, “We deal with anything that clicks.” Has this changed?

Recently I meant with the folks from Captivate. For those of you who don’t know them, they’re the ones who put small, TV-like screens with full-motion video in elevators in U.S. skyscrapers. As you know, I rarely write about specific vendors. But this is a very cool concept.

Guess what. In this medium, you can’t click. This intrigues me. Do online media planners deal only with clickable, linkable vehicles? Perhaps not.

Content from various sources streams across the top area of the screen: weather, local sports scores, world news, and the like. The ad unit has no proprietary name but looks almost like a fat banner. There’s no sound. The technology could handle it, but Captivate found people are extremely adverse to sound. I saw ads for IBM, Gillette, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, and others in the demo.

Many studies back online advertising’s validity for an at-work audience. No one else came close to competing in this space… until now. Think about it. If you work in an office building, how many times do you ride the elevator each day? Most employees ride the elevator six times daily. That’s about a half hour per week! If they’re at work, their computers are likely steps away from that elevator. Nancy Jackson, VP of marketing and programming at Captivate, was kind enough to share some stats (from a Nielsen study for the company). Individuals were asked, “How have you responded to an ad on Captivate?” Responses break out like this:

  • 12 percent visited a Web site

  • 12 percent thought about making a purchase
  • 4 percent recommended the product/service to a friend
  • 3 percent said they needed a phone call
  • 2 percent made a purchase
  • 2 percent visited a store

We yearn for a target audience’s attention. As media folk, we sell ourselves, our strategies, companies, and technologies as being out of the box. In online media, we sell the ad opportunity as a set of eyeballs a few inches away from the box. Now, the audience is literally in the box!

I ask you, dear readers, how do we define this category? Can online media planners/buyers add this to our bag of tricks? Or does it belong to broadcast, outdoor, or print? Tell me!

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