A few months ago, the dot-com revolution was at its peak and young entrepreneurs were jumping ship to find fame and fortune on the Web. But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s been far from plain sailing for Internet companies. Following the Boo.com fiasco, the tide has definitely turned.
Problems facing Net companies are being exacerbated by old economy companies which are happy to take our money but refuse to meet us half-way. My company, an e-tailer called Bigsave.com, has experienced a one-rule-for-them, one-rule-for-us scenario when trying to initiate joint marketing activities. I have come across blatant discrimination from publishers, television, radio and other companies with which I have been in negotiations over the past year.
This year we’ve been trying to organise promotions with major national newspapers. One newspaper, with which Bigsave.com had spent over £200,000 in advertising during the past six months, refused to even meet me to discuss promotional activities. Another newspaper’s promotions manager told me at the initial meeting that they would check out the website to make sure that it fitted with the image of the paper.
Bigsave.com wanted to run a promotion that gave the newspaper’s readers a free CD-Rom worth £15. The newspaper admitted that if we were Marks & Spencer, it would accept a give-away with a £5 value, but because we were a Net company the minimum value for any promotion was £30. We’ve had the same unfair treatment when trying to enter into other cross-promotional schemes – with petrol companies, airlines, restaurants and leisure chains. They wanted us to prove our brand strength for two to three years before they would consider any promotional activities, even when we offered to pay for the entire promotion. It was as if they didn’t want our money.
The problem is that there is now a multitude of dot-com companies armed with significant marketing spends and short-term objectives. Traditional media such as newspapers, television and radio stations can have their pick of the Net marketing money, but their extreme aversion to what they perceive as high risk can only really be interpreted as a knee-jerk fear of the unknown – and complacency.
My fear is that high-profile dot-com failures such as Boo.com will make this situation worse. Ultimately, however, it’s the UK economy that will be the real loser.
Peter Baily is marketing director of Bigsave.com.