A note of caution for Net novices

Judging by the volume of editorial coverage, the growing number of dedicated magazines, and the proliferation of seminars and conferences devoted to the Internet it may surprise some to know that there are still only around 200,000 people in the UK with full access to the Net and 7.9 million users around the world. Yet each week a growing number of companies recognise its commercial value.

Surf the “pages” of the Internet and you will see sites under construction by advertising agencies such as Chiat/Day and HHCL & Partners, information and entertainment sites sponsored by the likes of AT&T and American Express and specialist services created on-line by companies. These include Barclaycard, which launched an on-line magazine, Netlink, in January and Price Jamieson, which has an interactive recruitment site where sales and marketing jobs are advertised, and interested parties can apply, through the Net.

Availability and access to the Internet continues to grow. Computers with built-in modem facilities offering the user automatic Net access are now on sale. And the number of public places allowing people to surf the Net is growing. Following in the footsteps of London’s Cyberia Cafe, is the UK’s first “cyber pub” which opens in Cambridge next month. But just how should Net novices approach and exploit the new media opportunities on offer?

With caution and an open mind, if you are to avoid what new media communications specialist AKQA dubs “multi-mediocracy”. “If it’s not adding to the bottom line, it is probably not worth doing,” says founder Ajaz Ahmed. Nor is interactivity for its own sake worthwhile. But by embracing the emergence of a range of “new media” – the Internet, CD-Rom, video-on-demand – marketing solutions can be created that work across a range of different platforms and give value to the marketer and the consumer.

It’s not going to be easy. Most people only want to see advertising they are interested in. Advertisers will have to persuade users to access and interact with their ads. Some argue this will only be possible for more complex products, such as cars. Others disagree. But undoutedly, the Net and other new media will have an irreversible impact on conventional communication, and therefore on advertising and marketing.

News, page 11; cover story, page 30

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