Outlook Is Hopeful At Jupiter Ad Forum

Referencing a quote from telecom analyst David Isenberg to illustrate the Internet’s upstart reputation, Agency.com managing director Andy Hobsbawm said at last week’s Jupiter/ClickZ Advertising Forum, “The milk of disruptive innovation doesn’t flow from cash cows.”

It’s a given that the big ad dollars reside with broadcast. But the hundred-plus attendees at the two-day conference in New York voiced optimism that the “disruptive innovation” of the Internet and emerging technologies will demand that budgets be realigned to more accurately reflect today’s media-consumption patterns.

“Larger agencies will see the budget slip away spot by spot,” said Mark Kingdon, CEO of Omnicom Group’s Organic in San Francisco.

According to Jupiter Research, the sea change could arrive as soon as 2008. The New York-based research firm predicts online ad spending will reach $15 billion that year, surpassing magazine ad spending by $500 million.

Despite the good news, the interactive-minded crowd seemed to be preoccupied with many of the same problems they have faced for years—with the capacity to wrest dollars from offline media and convince TV holdouts to strategize across media being chief among the concerns.

“You can’t discount the sexy, cool thing of doing broadcast,” said Sean Carton, chief experience officer at Baltimore-based Carton Donofrio Partners. After all, he added, an interactive creative director doesn’t fly to Tahiti to shoot a Web ad.

But selling interactive is getting easier, some said. “It’s sort of happening person by person—light bulb by light bulb goes off,” said Sara Fay, president of Aegis Group’s Carat Interactive in Boston, which accompanied TV- buying teams to pre-upfront meetings this year to brief clients on broadband possibilities. “Conversations are much less frustrating.”

At 68 percent household penetration, Internet reach is on par with cable TV. Still, panelists said marketers should focus not only on reach and frequency measures, but also on whether their messages are connecting with the intended targets.

Keynote speaker Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo!, called for the audience at the Crowne Plaza Times Square to leverage “the unique characteristics of what this medium can afford. … It seems like everyone has A.D.D. The challenge is not how to reach people; it’s how you connect with that audience.”

For example, marketers like Coca-Cola and Hewlett-Packard are partnering with Web properties such as Microsoft’s MSN and eBay to create unique programs aimed at specific niches.

Another keynote speaker, Jeff Bell, vp at Chrysler/Jeep in Auburn Hills, Mich., said the car company is exploring ad opportunities beyond the Big Three portals and top automotive sites, placing its brands in online games, for instance. He also unveiled three Web-only spots that target firefighters, police officers and rescue workers with price incentives.

With Google’s pending IPO on the minds of people inside and outside the interactive ad industry, search continued to be a hot topic among attendees. Panelists spoke of a market that in many ways is still immature in terms of expertise and growth. “There is a significant lack of resources now in people who can do this well,” said Dana Todd, co-founder of La Jolla, Calif.-based SiteLab International, an i-shop with a heavy concentration in search.