MediaMedia PlanningWatching the Tchotchke Meter

Watching the Tchotchke Meter

Why keep track of IAB numbers or analysts' forecasts, when there's a much better way of gauging the industry's health?

The outlook for online ad revenue turned brighter this week. A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) showed an 8.9 percent increase from Q3 to Q4 2002. Revenue from all forms of online advertising — banner ads, paid search listings, pop-up ads, and other various forms — was estimated at $1.58 billion in Q4 2002, up from $1.45 billion. This follows various analyst reports, including one from a Goldman Sachs analyst who revised his outlook to $5.99 billion from an earlier number of $5.47 billion. So, things are starting to turn around, eh?

Well, I think so. But there’s a rock-solid, reliable prognostication tool available to all of us today. No hefty annual fees, no need to sign up for anything — in fact, it’s right at your fingertips. What am I referring to? Why, the Tchotchke Meter of course.

Now, for those of you who need to polish up on your Polish (at least I think the term is Polish, or Yiddish, or something Eastern European. My proofreader tells me it’s Yiddish based on old Polish. This is not so important right now, but I will award an exciting prize to the first person who responds with the correct origin of the word. Now, back to the column…), this term is used around our office to describe the various items we receive from the media. You know, those little items a media rep uses to express her appreciation for your business. Or perhaps something to capture your attention in anticipation of the next client media buy. Sometimes they’re called gifts, leave-behinds, reminders, incentives, and so on. I like to think of them as a highly sophisticated barometer of our industry’s health.

So how do I make the giant leap from sales graft to sales graph?

Here’s my logic. Once you become an advertising sales manager, you are instantly infused with an innate ability to tightly manage a budget. Therefore, you only agree to invest in sales incentives if you sense a turnaround. Lately, we’re starting to see a lot more tchotchkes. Now, it’s nothing close to the heyday of 1998 or 1999 when they were falling off a truck outside our office doors. But things are looking better. For some examples, let’s take a quick glance at some recent arrivals:

  • A very nice Lava lamp from Google — so we can watch something else go up and down on a daily basis besides our 401(k)s.
  • A night out at the local horse track with AOL. Something new to bet on besides our future?
  • A fabulous trip to Chicago for a “Client Appreciation Party” by MSN with $25,000 in various prizes handed out by random drawing. Glad my client netted a prize!
  • A cool combination (beer) bottle opener/key chain from Electronic Arts (EA) Sports. This will come in handy at 4:59 p.m. every Friday (or every day, depending on what kind of day it’s been).
  • A nifty cell phone recharger that connects to your PC via USB port from Yahoo This is extremely handy for long road trips.
  • A cool hiking pouch from GORP — so we have more capacity to lug work to and from the office.
  • A voucher handed out by at an industry conference — good for anything at the resort. This was especially useful for a much needed neck massage at the spa.
  • Fleece sweatshirts, fleece pullovers, fleece vests, fleece blankets, fleece just about everything. Ever wonder why so much stuff comes in fleece? Is there subtle messaging here — fleece/fleecing? Gotta wonder.
  • And the kicker I’ve seen lately is a brand-new PDA from Microsoft awarded for attendance at its recent Agency Advisory Board meeting. Very cool. Wish I could have attended.

Let me know the coolest thing you’ve received. The winner will be mentioned in an upcoming column and will receive a handsome, logoed fleece-type thingy.

Although all this stuff is great — and sometimes a little overwhelming — I do think there are things we as buyers really want to receive (or not). Here’s my list of favorites:

  • Not getting a call from someone saying the site has run 82 million “added-value” impressions for us at no additional cost. (Someone must have forgotten the impact of ad-serving costs.)
  • Receiving a value-add brand impact study. Folks, these things win incremental business, hands-down. Bring ’em on.
  • Having a simple, one-on-one dinner at a quiet, pleasant restaurant so we can take time to share knowledge and mutual goals on behalf of the client.
  • Responding to a request for proposal (RFP) with the exact requirements — including hitting the budget.
  • Keeping us in the loop whether there is a problem or not.

Keep an eye on the Tchotchke Meter, and see if you agree things are turning around. And if you’re a sales manager, don’t forget to budget in some of the suggestions above as well. They may pay off better than that logoed fleece hat you’re sporting at the next sales call.

Meet James at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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