Mark Curtis

Mark Curtis is director of new media agency CHBi

There’s a distinct lack of reality about some of the things being said in the Web marketing world. It’s time people applied a healthy dose of consideration to the statements they are making – and scepticism to the statements they are hearing.

This is especially true in the area of Web advertising. For instance, a lot is made of the Internet’s ability to target minutely. I’ve heard one content owner claim that shortly he’ll be able to offer a client the ability to buy an audience who are car owners and members of a motoring organisation, and even communicate with them shortly before they renew membership.

I don’t believe it. Even if he can, I bet it’s a really small number of people. This kind of precise micro-targeting is simply not worth doing until the numbers stack up. However, some of the buying points would have you believe that opportunities are going begging for want of sophistication from buyers.

We are in danger of approaching this medium using existing models drawn from the advertising and direct marketing worlds. This is not the right way to work with this medium.

Already we have learned interactive media operate in ways very different from their offline predecessors. We need to embrace the fact that we are still learning and accept that the old way of doing things is almost certainly not the most effective for delivering commercial success in the future.

The truth is, very few people in the UK know much about how Web marketing works. We are still filling our hard disks with learning about how Websites communicate, let alone learning about how banner ads add to the communication mix.

That, of course, is not an argument against evaluating. But let’s not try to run before we can walk, especially as the buying points are reminiscent of independent radio six years ago – that is, still seeking co-ordination in standards and service. The emergence of sales houses such as TSMSi is a step in the right direction.

The issue of Web advertising is also generating a lot of hot air from agencies and some Web design companies – each debating who should take the lead in this area. Sadly, they are missing the point.

Digital strategy is the issue and is the entire context within which a company’s Website operates. This encompasses a great deal more than banner ads and who plans and buys them. Clever clients, and whoever advises them, will be focusing on this.

If we are going to create a medium, the basic building blocks need to be in place first, and a great deal of focus needs to be applied to make the vision meaningful.

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