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As a new, seductive medium, building an Internet site can be hazardous. But, as

Advertising agencies, IT firms and network specialists are rushing to set up new media departments. These are competing for your business with a host of one-man bands in a volatile market.

As a result, advertisers are easily lost. The market is still at an early stage, with no clearly defined areas of specialisation. There are different prices, services, and costs offered to advertisers seeking to set up sites, which makes comparison and selection very difficult.

Because companies have no real basis of cost-comparison, they often choose new media suppliers on the basis of the cheapest quote, making some pitches like auctions.

But this can lead to advertisers discovering the hidden costs of maintaining and managing an up-to-date site after the job is done. And it’s not just cost issues that are causing confusion among advertisers.

Confusion can also surround the use of unfamiliar new technologies – for example Java and ShockWave – in commissioning a state-of-the-art Website. These applications are certainly fascinating, but they can help to obscure the site’s message.

Too often, it is forgotten that you want people to visit your site for a reason – not just to see the latest gimmicks. And yet companies are seduced by the vast potential of the Web, and are tempted to stray from the original business objective into some form of publishing.

Accomplishing any communications task requires clear goals. And if your business wants to establish a site on the Net, one question must remain: what is its purpose?

There are different strategies in exploiting the Net. These could be providing information, relationship building, or boosting the brand. It is best to concentrate on one objective as the central backbone of a site.

But there’s a danger of the

“me-too” scenario, which allows new technology to drive a site’s

development.

Nor you shouldn’t consider your own Website in isolation from the rest of the marketing mix when planning new media strategy. Any serious plans for building a Website must answer the same questions: how do we manage promotion and publicity on and off-line? And can we link with other sites through sponsorship and advertising or reciprocal deals?

But it is follow-up which is the most crucial aspect. Some sort of measurement system which will not only quantify site hits, but also help identify the site’s audience, is a must. Otherwise the site is in danger of vanishing into the ether.v

Ajaz Ahmed is managing partner of AKQA is a communications company specialising exclusively in new media. AKQA’s clients include BMW, Virgin Radio, Durex, Scottish Amicable, BT, ITV and Reuters.

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