Art & Commerce: Upfront and Center

It’s time to take Internet advertising seriously
My favorite anecdote from the world of sales: a young, aggressive executive selling cable spots in the early ’80s, frustrated at his potential client’s resistance to his pitch, jumped on top of the table in the middle of the meeting and shouted, “We’ve got the audience, now give us some respect.” Just more Ted Turner apocrypha? Maybe. But it’s how many Internet executives and I feel today.
There’s something we can do about our frustration–and make both the buying and selling of inventory in this market of 70 million U.S. Internet consumers more efficient and effective. Traditional and new media agencies should make the Internet part of the advertising upfront buying season.
Traditional ad agencies, which drive the upfront buying model, have been slow to see the Internet as a mainstream media vehicle. Even though the Internet reached critical mass (50 million users in the U.S. or 20 percent of the population in the U.S.) faster than television, cable and radio, the Internet’s sheer popularity was not enough to earn respect and attention.
For traditional agencies and many clients, the Internet industry moved from one-month R&D tests to $10,000-20,000 three-month buys to larger “quarterly” commitments, where credible metrics needed to be communicated in “advertising language” and there had to be metrics beyond the click.
Research companies quickly delivered reach, usage, demographic and psychographic information site-by-site, portal-by-portal. At MSN, we have championed ad-effective research proving offline metrics, such as brand awareness, perception and consideration, are achieved online. Brand building happens through banners, buttons and sponsorships, the same way it happens in other media’s advertisements.
Yet despite credible metrics, undeniable consumer popularity, eyeballs migrating from TV to the Internet and the Internet and TV being used simultaneously, the Internet still is not viewed as an ad medium on the same level as traditional vehicles. Today, many companies do not think of Internet advertising in one-year increments.
Jupiter Communication’s January 2000 report projects U.S. Internet advertising will jump from
$3.3 billion in 1998 to $33 billion by 2004. This is a ton of buying and planning, a serious proposition for our clients and for the continued growth and success of the Internet. We have to break out of the quarterly buying routine so we can develop long-lasting relationships built on commitment, not just click-through.
When I think of the work MSN has accomplished with our long-term clients and the upfront buys we have done with properties like MSN MoneyCentral and MSN WomenCentral, I see the real success of Internet advertising. I also see the possibilities before us.
The less time we spend doing many “one off” deals in a year and move to an upfront buying model, the more time we can devote to the hard work necessary to make an advertiser’s campaign more creative and integrated and deliver even more impact.