Scenes from the Year 2000

For your edification and amusement, here are a few predictions for the new year in the world of media planning.

HITS

The word “hits” will continue to plague our industry as the most inaccurate measurement of anything pertaining to the online medium.

The word first came on the scene as a way to determine web site traffic because there was nothing else by which to judge online activity. So it was determined that “hits” should represent that. What a “hit” actually consists of is a file request from a server. So if I arrive at a site, and there are ten files, both text and image, then you get ten “hits.”

Though there are those of us in media that will persistently insist that the term “hits” stay within the vernacular of disc jockeys and baseball players, the media will continue to keep this word alive in reference to web site traffic and the online advertising industry.

ROI

This will finally start really referring to “return on investment” rather than “roped one in.” Site vendors and account planners bandy “ROI” about with wanton abandon. It is used every time someone wants to impress upon his or her listener the concept of accountability. It is ubiquitous in conversations about cost per click, site profiling statistics, and every other type of cost-per-action metric. The year 2000 will see “ROI” finally sit next to what back in the old days of advertising was called the “A/S ratio” (advertising-to-sales ratio).

The online space will finally start looking at ROI as actually signifying the act of getting something back in return for capital outlay. More advertisers will start looking at how many dollars come in for the number of dollars going out. And if they don’t come upon this on their own, the VCs will finally force them to it.

Sessions

From the beginning, sites have kept track of the amount of time a visitor spends perusing their pages. When a site has no relevant demographics or content to offer media buyers in a pitch, they will often throw out something like: “Our visitors spend on average 40 minutes at a time on our site, meaning they will have ample opportunity to see your ads again and again.”

Well, to date, most online advertisers are looking for responses to advertising. They want to move units, and they don’t want to burn loads of impressions to do it. Direct response advertisers know that a viewer is most likely to respond sometime in the first three ad exposures (and most of those who do respond do so on the first viewing). They aren’t interested in persistent contact.

But as broadband becomes less narrow in its availability, and the public gets online with cable modems, DSL, wireless, and interactive television, duration of a session will become a much more meaningful metric. 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. Sessions will fast become a standard variable to consider when planning an online campaign in a medium where rich media has become the standard.

Cross-Media Placements

As the interactive advertising medium continues to mature, more agencies and their clients will begin to use campaigns that utilize more online properties of offline vehicles. That is to say, as more and more netcentric clients put big dollars into television, radio, and traditional print, the web sites for these entities will also be utilized by those same advertisers.

Clients putting money into, say, national cable will also have significant presence on the web sites for those networks on which that advertiser has bought a schedule. If I’ve put a million dollars into a schedule on the Discovery Channel (www.discoverychannel.com), I should also get some heavy presence running on the Discovery Channel web site. More and more advertisers will look for either value-add from a traditional media vehicle’s online property, or they will construct a customized cross-promotion that will drive the audience of the offline property to the online one.

This is already happening to some degree, and we are going to see this kind of thing going on more and more often. It is my contention that, somewhere along the line, someone will discover that visitors who have encountered advertising on a television network or a magazine or a radio station will be more likely to respond to that same advertiser’s online advertising.

And that is all for my predictions for the year 2000. Any more, and I start increasing my chances of being proven wrong.

Hope y’all have a safe and prosperous New Year. And please, everyone: The millennium doesn’t start until NEXT year.

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