The Need for Speed

Internet advertising makes up only about one percent of the total U.S. advertising market, and high-speed access is the great technological development that will cause online advertising to really take flight. However, I have some bad news: People don’t know beans about DSL and cable modem access.

Why is this important? First of all, if you have any stake at all in online advertising, high-speed access is a major factor that will allow for more creativity, more flexibility, more James Earl Jones voiceovers, and – most important of all – more revenue. Second, if you’re in the ISP industry, you need to know that you have a lot of work ahead in educating your target audience about the magic of broadband.

Only Six Percent Know DSL

How bad is it? A few months ago, The Strategis Group asked 502 Internet users to indicate whether they knew “a great deal,” “some,” “a little,” or “nothing or virtually nothing” about Internet access via DSL and via cable modems. Again, this was asked of Internet users, a relatively high-tech and knowledgeable crowd.

Sixty percent confessed that they know nothing or virtually nothing about DSL. Another 22 percent know only “a little.” A stark 6 percent of the Internet-using population actually know a great deal about the wonders of DSL.

What about cable modem access? A little better, but still dismal. Forty-two percent know nothing or virtually nothing about it, 27 percent know only a little, and only 11 percent know a great deal. The poll results are several months old now, but the message they send remains loud and clear.

Need for Basic Awareness

This implies that promoters of high-speed access really need to start at the beginning. They should make it clear that high-speed access is many times faster than 56 kbps access, that it is “always on,” and that it will facilitate on-demand video and audio. With prices tumbling and technologies improving, the biggest barrier to demand is not price, it’s ignorance about basic benefits.

Bottom line: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Be graphic. Show the speed. Show the Internet coming on like a television. Don’t dig in and show that your upstream speed is 12 percent faster than that of Rhythms.

Easy to Segment Demand

One interesting finding of the poll is that knowledge of high-speed access is easily segmentable according to demographic and behavioral criteria.

Among heavy users of the Internet at work, for example, a remarkable 28 percent are already well-versed about DSL. Persons who use the Internet at both home and work, persons with high incomes, men, and young and middle-aged persons are some of the segments who know the most about high-speed access. Light users, older users, and others, however, know precious little about it.

Providers who take this to heart can get good bang for the marketing buck.

Segmentation of DSL Awareness

Versed on DSL Access

Not Versed on DSL Access


% who Know a Great Deal about DSL Access


% who Know a
Great Deal about
DSL Access

Heavy work users


Light work users


Home/work users


Work-only users


18-24 users


55+ users






Income over $60K


Income under $60K


High-speed access from home is currently only a tiny percentage of the overall market, but it is the tide that will lift the Internet ad industry. Getting there, however, will happen a lot faster once providers and others make a sustained effort to build awareness.

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