Building an Online Bridge

At last week’s Jupiter/ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York, I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel for the session called “Advertising Roundtable: The Big Picture.” With Gary Stein, Jupiter Research analyst and ClickZ columnist, as our moderator, the panel consisted of Jim Spanfeller, CEO of Forbes.com; Charlie Buchwalter, VP of Analytics at Nielsen//NetRatings; David Moore, CEO of 24/7 Real Media; Patrick Keane, head of advertising sales strategy at Google; and myself. All in all, it was a good cross-section of agency, publisher, and measurement professionals who really know their stuff.

The group was charged with answering some of the tough questions our industry faces every day, such as:

  • How much should clients spend online as part of their overall marketing mix?

  • What should the mix look like with regard to branding versus direct response?
  • What is the state of the overall marketplace? That is, does it really stink as much as it would appear from the macro numbers, or are we seeing the start of a strong growth spurt?

An Aside: Don’t Let the Numbers Fool You

If you see the recent macro growth numbers for online ad spending from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s parent corporation), please take them with a grain of salt. Jupiter predicts online display ad spending will decline 6 percent from $3.6 billion in 2003. Keep in mind you have to adjust for years of prior funny numbers and old deals from AOL. Plus, talk to major publishers such as NYTimes.com, MSN, and Forbes.com. They’ll tell you they’re having a great year and see strong growth from the top 1,000 advertisers. Just to clarify the industry outlook — it’s looking rather bright to me. Chin up, please.

Back to the Point

We covered a lot of turf and handled some interesting topics, but it was a question from the audience that left me thinking. One woman asked: “How do we motivate traditional media professionals to really consider the Internet when they plan their next campaign?” After all, we can conduct insightful cross-media optimization studies, analyze consumer media consumption patterns, and talk about the great interactive components of an online campaign till the cows come home. But it won’t do us a bit of good if the core media director doesn’t really demonstrate buy-in. How do we truly build that one crucial bridge?

Don’t Forget, We’re All Just Human

Managing a great interactive team as part of a good size agency does have a few advantages. One is I can hop down a flight of stairs to talk turkey with any media director in the company. Sometimes, however, I want to pull my hair out when — after carefully laying out the perfectly logical case for online within the overall mix — I get the cold shoulder. And I hear my peers commiserate about the “protectionism” attitude they often encounter.

It’s important to take a step back and realize “they” are not the enemy. We all know several senior media people who are all over online and eager to leverage it for their client’s needs. But what about the folks who seem to make life so difficult? Why don’t they get it?

Take a deep breath and keep in mind today’s group media director is required to:

  • Continuously serve up ever-increasing performance for the agency’s clients

  • More efficiently manage budgets
  • Totally understand and have a point of view on the continuously fragmenting media landscape
  • Be able to wring out ridiculous amounts of value add
  • Leap from tall buildings in a single bound to snag Rolling Stones tickets for client entertainment
  • Perform various other feats requiring superhuman talents

And we wonder why they don’t jump at the chance to learn every intricate detail about online?

Nine times out of ten, a group media director would enthusiastically recommend online if she has what she needs to recommend any media type — the facts. Before you charge down the hall with that 98-page PowerPoint deck full of compelling data and charts, remember she is likely just as challenged for time as you and I are.

Instead of giving your group media director data dumps, try bite-sized nuggets of information. Shoot him a one-page overview of a recent study. The following week send a link to a competitive chart with recent spending. Later send a one-paragraph synopsis of a recent brand effectiveness study. Take it from our friends at Starbucks, the slow-dip method is sometimes the best way to let the good stuff sink in.

“Be there” when you get the call from the media director who’s getting lots of questions from a curious client. That’s when going above and beyond with relevant information will help your colleague look good — and hopefully you’ll benefit, too, when the budget is nailed down.

Consider brown-bag seminars, monthly email newsletters customized just for their accounts, an occasional beer bash, and — last, but not least — generous volumes of chocolate. (Hey, I said we’re all human.)

But always remember we’re here to develop programs that benefit the client, not a particular medium. If online isn’t the right fit, there’s no sense wasting everyone’s time.

Next time you get frustrated with someone who’s not on your “online page,” just remember we all need to take the long-term view and help our colleagues. Now, where’s that box of chocolate?

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