Dim Sum for 2001

A year ago, I provided a few predictions about the online advertising industry, some of which came to pass. This year I’d like to do the same for 2001. But first, a brief recap of last year’s predictions:

Year 2000 Prediction Survey Hits

Though I was right, and the word “hits” does “continue to plague our industry as the most inaccurate measurement of anything pertaining to the online medium,” it is beginning to fall out of vogue. Finally, journalists covering the space, most of whom are new to it, are finally getting the hint that “hit” is something you talk about if you are Rick Dees or Sammy Sosa.

ROI. True enough, ROI really did see use as “return on investment” rather than “roped one in.” With all the technologies for tracking back-end activity at our disposal, advertisers were able to genuinely attribute their advertising activity to some generation of revenue or to some desired action.

Sessions. Well, sessions never took off. I’d stated that “time spent with a particular vehicle will become more significant because advertisers will want to know what the likelihood of the audience’s seeing their advertisement will be.” Well, it ain’t happened yet. But it should! “Opportunity to see” is a factor established by the Advertising Research Foundation that is taken into consideration when determining reach and frequency for a given vehicle. This is something that is certainly necessary for the online advertising industry.

Cross-media placements. The idea of cross-media placements has finally caught on, but it isn’t as widespread as I’d imagined it would be. I’d like to think it is because I am so far ahead of my time, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that multimedia conglomerates took all year to start getting their acts together and, once ready, it was too late for a lot of budgets to be used in this fashion. Not to mention the bloodbath the industry as a whole has undergone in these last few months. Just employ Tom Hespos’s “The Negative-Press Generator” article here, and the stories will become familiar to you. Discovery Channel did a few interesting things, like selling its “Watch With the World” televised events packaged with online, yet Y2K didn’t see a lot of creativity in this department.

But 2001 will, which brings us to my predictions for the new year.

Year 2001 Predictions

Cross-media platform packaging. I know, it’s cheesy to “re-predict” something from last year, but like playing Lotto numbers, if you stick with the same ones week in and week out, you’ve gotta eventually hit something, right? Seriously, I do believe that we will finally start seeing more of this sort of thing. Media companies have consolidated, and despite what the press might say, the web as a medium is here to stay. Agencies and their clients will become more sophisticated about what they want from the web as a medium. How better to make the web work in concert with the rest of an advertising and marketing effort?

“Awareness” becomes a compelling reason to advertise online. With new technologies and more and more SMART attention being paid to the use of the web as a true advertising vehicle (and not just an ancillary sales channel), agencies and their clients will finally be able to speak meaningfully about the effect of the web as a medium within the context of the overall effect of their marketing efforts. As I wrote recently (albeit hackneyed as it was), the web needs to join the ranks of the rest of media, and it will do so this year. That will pave the way for the web to be treated as a powerful marketing tool, not just as a tool attributed to causal relationships between ad and sales.

We will learn the difference between branding and awareness. I’ve written about this before in this space. “Branding” is not the same as “awareness.” There is mutual reinforcement between the two, but they are not the same thing. With agency veterans like Mike Drexler and Erwin Ephron talking seriously about the web, wrapping their arms around it, and bringing it into the fold, marketing maturity and intelligence will be brought to bear. This will add some weight and clarity to discussions about the medium when they revolve around using the web for branding.

Rich media primacy. Yes, boys and girls, it is finally going to happen. Rich media is going to start having a real presence on the web. Sure, the trades have filled many an issue with talk of the dead banner and the exciting opportunities available for rich media to take its place. But what legions of freelance writers and journalists new to this industry didn’t understand was that clients simply weren’t willing to plunk down the extra cash necessary to produce rich media creative units. Rich media was always like teenage sex: Everyone talked about it, but no one really ever did it. But that’s going to start changing this year.

Because of broadband?

Yes, to some extent. But it’s really going to be a result of my last prediction.

Traditional advertisers get on board. Yep. That’s my call. By 2Q 2001, traditional advertisers will finally start playing the game. They’ve had the last few years to sit back and watch the space evolve. Like early man watching animals eat unknown fruit, traditional advertisers can now move with a bit more confidence in this space. The jungles are littered with the dead, and these guys have taken note. They may not know which fruits are best, but they can at least discern which ones are poisonous. Look for traditional advertisers to start moving money onto the web now that the research is getting better and the data more definite.

So there you have it, my 2001 predictions. Hope y’all have a safe and prosperous new year. And please, everyone, take note: The millennium finally starts THIS year.

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