When Does the Ad Model Break?

The online marketing world appears to be going through a profound change. Not a monetary change per se, but one technology is responsible for. This is hardly the first time technology has wrought major change.

Looking back to the 1960s, we find broadcast media in its simplest form. Every night in the comfort of our living rooms, reporters and anchormen recounted the death toll in Vietnam. Though TV wasn’t the sole reason, it was a enormous contributing factor in the awareness of the war’s futility. The box was in nearly every American home. It had become the family oracle. The technology changed the perceptions of millions in a series of months, if not weeks.

Let’s go back further, to the French Revolution. Another piece of attainable technology had the same effect in another period of political instability. At the time, a common merchant could own a printing press and produce any type of poster, pamphlet, or document, whether it contained truth or lies. Such publications helped keep resentment of the government alive. Literacy helped, too.

Our Internet revolution isn’t as new as it appears, though people have access to information and each other more quickly than ever. Amazing as it is, more amazing is the effect it’s had on business general, and on the business of advertising in particular.

Offline advertising is now colliding technologically with the innovative strength of online advertising.

Every day, highly skilled ad agency people move closer to doing the same thing: working to get creative ideas into some sort of video or rich interactive ad experience, then getting them online.

Who’s better qualified to do it: off- or online agencies? How do clients pick the best person for the job?

The answer may lie in the simple principle that offline advertising, TV, print, and so forth are created for viewers. Interactive marketing, ads, Web sites, and such are created for users.

Simple as that sounds, each side of this argument is best proven by how interactive has recently been used. Not to mention how confusing it’s been for people venturing into online marketing. You have video ads that play along but aren’t interactive, for example. At the same time, you have rich media ads that are highly interactive and controllable, not to mention measurable.

As the technology improves daily, the dust settles and the proven way to use rich media, video or otherwise, becomes apparent. Advances in graphic production technology are changing the quality and depth of how online advertising’s created.

Yet who is best to execute all this looms as a question.

As an alumni of offline and a veteran of online marketing I must ask: Are we doomed to invoke a constant battle with our offline brethren? Will this smoldering issue become a slow-motion train wreck?

I don’t think so. Some say “old men have to die” before off- and online advertising can truly unite. That’s pessimistic,. But we do need to take a hard look at who’s in this game to learn and to win.

Clients must also demand the best of their agencies. They have to think not in terms of the parts but in terms of the whole when it comes to using online.

Though to some this may seem like a dirty little advertising secret, it’s been going on for decades. Technology levels the playing field. And when you level the field, the best team usually wins.

Meet Dorian at Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.

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