Each year as the holiday season approaches, we all grab our pencils (or PDAs, as our crowd is inclined to prefer) and go through the ritual of compiling our wish lists - those gift-giving guides designed to help out indecisive family and friends through their escapades at the mall. As a rule, our wish lists summarize our deepest needs and desires (at least as far as clothing, reading material, and electronics are concerned). On occasion, they may even include something of the intangible variety - and I'm not talking about a request for high-speed Internet access.
In the spirit of wishing for more ethereal gifts, this year I compiled an additional list. Instead of cataloging my wants as a consumer, I wrote from a media buyer's point of view, outlining what I hope to find awaiting Internet marketers in 2003.
As you may recall, 2002 brought with it huge volumes of unsolicited email and untargeted online advertising. According to Jupiter Research, an overwhelming 35 percent of email sent by the end of 2002 will be spam, and researchers predict unsolicited email will outnumber "non-spam" email in 2003.
Unsolicited pop-up ads were just as pervasive, prompting Internet users to fight back against the "annoying" and "intrusive" ad format by voicing their disdain for pop-ups, which in turn led some publishers to ban the format from their online properties (at least when ads are originated by third parties).
All of this enmity put our industry in a fishbowl and made online marketers the focal point of newscasts both online and off-. Much to our chagrin, these developments also helped to further sully the good name of legitimate marketers, whom many consumers fail to differentiate from the relentless spammers and immoral direct advertisers they despise.
On that note, my wish for 2003 is for consumers come to recognize not all online advertisers are quite so reprehensible and many of us sincerely care about their level of satisfaction with our marketing tactics. We're not vindictive villains here, just people fascinated by advertising, trying to make a living.
Twelve Reps Departing...
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: In many respects, the secret to being a good media buyer is growing and maintaining strong relationships with your sales contacts. That isn't an easy feat when account managers change on a biweekly basis. Over the past year I've seen more of my contacts suddenly vanish than I care to remember and have faced my fair share of media planning setbacks because of it.
If you think you know where I'm going with this, hold on. As easy as it would make our jobs as media buyers, I don't, in fact, wish for our sales reps to take root somewhere, even if their working environments are inadequate and unstable. Instead, my wish is for online media companies to be profitable enough - and sales people to be happy enough in their current or future jobs - that they have the opportunity to stick around for more than a couple of months. Hmm... a position in Internet advertising that doesn't inherently have a high turnover rate? What a novel idea.
Fear Not, Ye Merry Gentlemen!
Analysts predict our industry will make some strides in 2003 with an expected boost in online ad spending of 5 percent (hey, it's better than decreased spending!). However, our challenge remains to convince old-school offline advertisers they need not fear the consequences of taking ad dollars from the media behemoths and redeploying them online.
The big boom and subsequent dot-com crash continue to scare traditional advertisers away, even though our industry is constantly demonstrating its worth. This year brought with it several studies involving offline giants, all of which proved the effectiveness of cross-media optimization platforms. We also saw an increase in media convergence with more consumers surfing the Internet and watching television simultaneously and, most important, dedicating more attention to their online tasks.
And so, my final wish for Internet marketers everywhere is for advertisers to leave their fears at the snowy doorstep as they come inside to warm themselves by the fire. Internet advertising combined with offline efforts works. I hope this will be the year in which diffident marketers finally give this valuable medium a try.
And on that note, I wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. Don't forget to keep on wishing!
Tessa Wegert plans and implements online advertising strategies and promotional campaigns as media manager at BAM Strategy, a Montreal-based interactive marketing agency. With a background in print advertising, consumer marketing, and copy editing, she also freelances as a technology and e-marketing writer, online and off.