Raising Our Brainchild

We all know Tim Berners-Lee created the Web in 1989. Did you know he never patented the technology? In a recent Business Week article, Berners-Lee says he simply wanted to make the world a richer place. He wasn’t concerned about personal wealth.

He compares today’s Web to a rebellious adolescent who can never fulfill her original expectations. Because of this, Berners-Lee is at it again. Within the next three years, he says he will give us the next generation of Web, which he calls the “Semantic Web.” It is a smart network that will finally understand human language and make computers virtually as easy to work with as other humans. The ultimate goal is to turn the Web into one colossal brain. In fact, he’s got all the top “brains” working on it. The project is being funded by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open forum of companies and organizations, which he heads.

Out of Berners-Lee’s mind came the most significant and innovative piece of software ever created, and the Web, in turn, spawned online advertising (in 1994). So, the Web is out of its infancy, as is online advertising. Now what? It’s still a sea of multiple standards, and, in some cases, there are no standards at all. As passionate as we buyers and sellers of online advertising are, we are still frustrated.

Here’s a quick list of things that still keep us up at night:

  • Churn. There’s been so much fallout that it’s hard to keep up with agency and publisher contacts. And that isn’t even considering site mergers and acquisitions. Content is merging and changing constantly.
  • Speed. No matter what, online advertising seems to have a stigma of being “instant.” Simply put, most everyone wants everything yesterday.
  • Measurement. I say tomato, you say tomahto. No one can even agree on the true definition of an “impression.” (Articles upon articles have been written about this, so I won’t even get started today.)
  • Creative. After eight years, you’d think sites would all agree on standard sizes and specifications for creative units.
  • Innovation. It is super-tough to stay ahead of the curve. New ideas in technology and creative are popping up all over the place.
  • Money. Currently online advertising accounts for only 5 percent of the overall ad-spending budget. As I said in a past article, we agency folks are not raking it in.
  • Research. We need it. We all subscribe to it. It’s expensive. Data conflicts from one source to another.
  • Tools. Online media planning is said to be about a 40-step process. Yikes! Buyers and sellers need more robust tools to help with the heavy lifting.
  • Lack of automation. There are so many elements of a campaign — from strategy to planning and buying to campaign measurement and optimization. Automation of workflow process and data collection is the Holy Grail to those of us in the field.
  • An endless list. Need I say more?

Although the list is constantly growing, the opportunities for online advertising are increasing as well. Internet penetration is on the rise. There are about 127 million adults online in the U.S., according to a Harris Poll. The total Web population is listed to be at 529.9 this year, according to eMarketer. Furthermore, eMarketer says online advertising revenue is projected to increase to $32.5 billion within the next three years. The cost of personal computers is at an all-time low, thus increasing household penetration.

Plus, there are still plenty of long-time advertisers out there, like the GMs, P&Gs, and Compaqs of the world. Meanwhile, industry organizations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau are advocating standardization. Perhaps by the time Berners-Lee has developed this new megahighway, we have the old one figured out.

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