State of the Union

The new U.S. president gives his first State of the Union speech next week, but the Internet advertising industry needs a little Christmas now. So without further ado, let me present Robin Webster, the new CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The state of the industry, she insists, is sound. “It’s still a huge market. It’s much bigger than a year ago.” The real problem is the business is coming from different quarters. “A lot is coming from traditional advertisers, and that’s the world I came from,” she said — she’s a longtime executive vice president for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

To get the business of ANA members, Webster says, sites need to speak their language. Those metrics exist for advertisers seeking to generate revenue from Internet ads, but they don’t exist for those “trying to use Internet advertising to increase awareness or improve mind share.”

In broadcasting and print, advertisers use things like preadvertising and postadvertising awareness studies to measure branding power, Webster says, not click-throughs. Sites that can measure their brand awareness can win business from traditional advertisers.

Webster says she has already appointed task forces in a number of important measurement areas and hopes to have some programs in place very soon, maybe by the time you read this.

“One thing I’m going to focus on” at IAB “is a list of the various reasons (I have 25 now) to use the Internet as a marketing tool,” she continues, warming to the subject. “Then we’ll have rationales for each one. Then we’ll show examples that have been successful.

“It’s high time we had new ad models.” But no one model will work for all campaigns and all advertisers.

“You might want to use different ad models for different campaigns. Then we’ll list the metrics to measure whether you met your objectives. It sounds simple; it’s Advertising 101. But I know for a fact a lot of people aren’t going through that process; otherwise, we wouldn’t be discouraged by click-throughs — there aren’t many areas where that’s an important measure” of advertising effectiveness.

Another Webster goal is to make the media planning, buying, and selling process easier. “It’s time for us to address the measurement issues. I look at this and set priorities, as well as educate the agencies and advertisers on why, when, and how to use interactive advertising.”

Since 1994, when the ANA first appointed Webster to take a look at the new medium, Internet advertising has passed farm and outdoor advertising, rivaling radio as an ad medium. That’s an incredible growth rate, says Webster. And the growth is continuing.

“I honestly think things are going to get better.” If there is a dot-calm underway, “It’s a terrific opportunity to lean forward and run and address some of the opportunities we haven’t had time to address.”

A good State of the Union speech should end on an inspiring note, and Webster’s speech is no exception.

“Advertisers want to get to their consumers, their customers, and this is where they are. So the key is to come out with relevant and effective ad models that capture these customers’ attention. Because this medium is more involving than TV or radio.

“These customers are also more attractive; they’re the influencers. They care enough to get involved and dig down into things. You have a better viewer.” All the industry needs to do to progress “is to continue to evolve.”

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