Friday, January 30, 2009

OnlineSpin: What Is The Purpose Of Online Advertising?

Last week Max wrote "Twist Of Fate: Obama Demonstrates How Businesses Should Operate."

Larry Czerwonka wrote in response, "Time will tell. We were hoping for better government communication when the Clinton administration touted a more efficient government, we even put environmental documents online -- not as stale PDF files for download but interactive documents with links -- and more importantly the ability for anyone to make comments.

Our reward for doing all this was to have all our funding cut.

We were too open. We let too many people from the public participate :("

Friday, January 30, 2009
What Is The Purpose Of Online Advertising?
By Max Kalehoff

What is the purpose of online advertising?

Erwin Ephron, godfather of modern media planning, stopped by the Clickable offices for a visit last week. I felt as if he shared 40 years of advertising wisdom in 60 minutes.  He may be an old-timer, but his insights are timeless and highly relevant to our work in digital advertising innovation.

We talked about integration and performance of different media formats, and most importantly, purpose. For example, what is the purpose of television? Awareness. The purpose of print (while it's still around)? In-depth and qualitative communication. The purpose of radio? To connect with shoppers. And the purpose of outdoor advertising? To remind people who are in a position to shop. I know, this all seems simplistic.

But what about online advertising? Surely, search advertising's purpose is to capture shopper intent. It does so extremely well, providing more economic visibility than any other advertising medium. It's made Google one of the most valuable media companies in only a few short years. But what about the rest of online advertising, such as display?

And that's precisely the problem. So far, with the exception of search, online advertising has failed to find its core purpose. And to characterize the rest of online advertising as a single entity wrongly diminishes the challenge, because there are many online ad formats.

The solution? Erwin underscored that we're still lacking fundamental ethnographic research about how people interact with and use online advertising. The problem is that basic. We need to better understand it before we can even begin to think about measuring and connecting it to business performance goals.

Lastly, we arrived at the ultimate truism: If you don't like online advertising, it's easy -- especially easy -- to condition yourself to ignore it. I used to think that  Adblocker Plus, the browser plug-in that removes all ads from your Web experience, was a potential threat to the advertising business. I realize now that it's only a red herring. The human brain subconsciously takes care of the problems of irrelevance, clutter and waste for us -- most of the time.

What do you think?

Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes

Online Spin for Friday, January 30, 2009:

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