Ad Guru: ‘Still Too Hard to Spend Money Online’

From left: Moderator Megan McIlroy, Frank Addante, Trevor Kaufman, Gayle Maltz Meyer, Marc Ruxin, Guy Wieynik and Dawn Winchester. Photos by Jesse Wright.

The experts gathered at’s first-ever advertising panel, “Advertising: The New Creative Agency,” moderated by AdAge‘s Megan McIlroy, agreed on one thing: Spending money online is difficult. Digital campaigns are all “bespoke,” Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic, complained to the packed room of 175. Frank Addante, whose Rubicon Project brings together Web sites and ad buyers, echoed Kaufman’s sentiments, saying, “It’s still too hard to spend money online. Thirty-three percent of content is viewed online, but only seven percent of ad dollars are spent there.”

Aside from spending that money with us, what’s a firm to do?

For one, agencies need to broaden their views on traditional advertising. “Not only are we going through this digital revolution, we are going through a marketing revolution too,” R/GA’s Dawn Winchester said. The group cited the Nike+ initiative as a huge success. “Nike+ isn’t really advertising, it’s great marketing” Kaufman argued, noting the brand’s ability to get people running as a victory that goes beyond advertising.

Video was another hot topic for the panelists. “If you’re not doing video on your sites, you should,” AKQA’s Guy Wieynk said. “Video-laden sites double in traffic every six to eight months.” Kaufman reinforced this claim, noting that eBay items featuring a video of the product sold for an average of 30 percent more than those same items sans video.

The level of information available about online ad campaigns is forcing buyers to recalibrate their notions of success. “[On the Internet], we promised the ability to track individuals and one-to-one relationships,” Addante said. “I think in some ways that hurts us.” He explained that a click-through rate of one percent looks low, but at least it provides a way to track the campaign’s effectiveness, unlike, for example, a billboard in Times Square.

Still, defining the success of an Internet campaign poses difficulty. “CMO’s tell me they know what it means if they purchase ad time on a TV program with a certain share,” Kaufman said. “But they have no idea what having 1,000 Facebook friends means.”

As for print media, “People will always need a break from their computers,” Addante told the group, giving would-be feature writers a modicum of hope.

The audience sits raptly in attention.