Net Navigators

In June, a man walked into an Internet café in London and asked to speak to the manager. Although he had never used a computer before, he had read in The Times that he could save 200 on the cost of flights to Barcelona for his family if he boo

In June, a man walked into an Internet café in London and asked to speak to the manager. Although he had never used a computer before, he had read in The Times that he could save 200 on the cost of flights to Barcelona for his family if he booked using the Internet. The manager studied the coupon, accessed the easyJet Website, and the flights were confirmed within a few minutes.

The airline’s promotion, offering 50,000 discounted flights available exclusively through the Internet, generated sales of more than 1m in ten days.

The power of the Internet as a marketing tool is not in doubt, yet the pressures on the marketing department can be immense if a company is to use the medium effectively to advertise its brand or run such a lucrative promotion. A vast amount of information is needed to create an informative Website and, compared with traditional press or TV advertising, which means there is a greater risk of the brand message can becoming confused.

Despite the importance of new media, few clients appear ready to employ someone with specific responsibility for electronic advertising. This means marketing directors will usually find it added to their portfolio, regardless of whether or not they have any Internet experience.

The easyJet marketing team, led by marketing director Tony Anderson, liaises daily with Website design agency Tableau Design & Marketing. Anderson has spent much of his time trying to make his site the easiest and most cost-effective way for all consumers – whether computer-literate or not – to book flights. Some eight per cent of tickets are booked electronically and he wants that to reach 30 per cent by the end of next year.

At Central Trains, marketing manager Alan Bray and promotions manager Dean Thorp were handed responsibility for the brand’s Website, created by design agency Red Kite New Media. Bray accepts that his day-to-day workload has increased, but he has tried to integrate his new media role into the company’s overall marketing strategy.

The company’s Internet address now appears on the side of trains and Bray plans to use promotions and advertising in other media to encourage passengers to book their tickets through the Website. The highlight of the Central Trains site is an interactive map which gives details of times and routes. The next step is to link with tourist information centres at various destinations.

“The Internet requires a lot of our attention. We are seeing the benefits because the site is bringing in new customers, including consumers who have not used the train for a long time,” says Bray.

Dynamo New Media director Andrew Cadman says the experiences of easyJet and Central Trains demonstrate how marketers can use new media without a large amount of technical knowledge. He also disputes the argument that marketing departments need to create a new position, such as an Internet manager.

“Companies rarely employ experts in sales promotion or in TV advertising so why should they need new media gurus? When it comes to advertising on the Net the normal marketing issues apply. Marketing teams must be involved because 80 per cent of what makes a good Website is the content, the other 20 per cent is how it looks and works,” he says.

Nevertheless, a lack of client knowledge about how the Internet operates and the technology behind it can create problems. Brand managers who are reluctant to take an active role in setting up a Website also risk handing responsibility solely to the IT department or a specialist Internet design agency. This can become an issue as they may not be working to the same brief as the marketing team or a retained advertising agency.

To ensure new media does not become unhinged from the overall marketing strategy, advertising agency Maher Bird Associates (MBA) will create Websites for clients, but it also brings in third-party new media specialists.

“Clients should not consider the Internet as an add-on. It is vital the marketing team gets involved – whether they have a dedicated new media manager or not. IT people tend to get excited about what the technology can do – but this does not necessarily interest consumers who are accessing the site,” says MBA planning director Karen Enver.

Shell Chemicals is one of MBA’s clients and the agency is in negotiations with Shell’s marketing team to see how its existing site, created in-house, can be revamped. Shell wants its presence on the Web to reflect a new corporate image which will be unveiled in a few months.

“The in-house Web master comes from a chemicals marketing background so he understands the issues effecting the company and the industry. Once the new brand strategy has been finalised we will work side by side,” says Enver.

Advertising agency Leagas Delaney has created a separate company within its organisation to handle clients’ new media needs. Media Direction was launched in January out of the agency’s fledgling Internet department. Managing director James Waite says a close relationship with the client is essential. “We set up project teams and make the client the head of that team. This is different from other commercial communications where the client is protected by layers of account managers. This is the best way to ensure we get the volume of content we need,” he adds.

He believes there is little point launching a Website if the client cannot find anyone to accept the role of project leader: “A Website that is thin on information could actually damage a brand’s image,” he says.

One of Media Directions’ clients is luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe, which has appointed sales and marketing director Pamela Cloutier as head of its project team. “I am involved with our Internet site everyday. It took more than six months to create the final version, during which time other senior managers were involved to ensure we were conveying the message we wanted. Media Direction has the creative and technical experts and I supply them with stories and information,” she says.

Chris Evans’ Ginger Media Group, which produces the TFI Friday programme for Channel 4 and also owns Virgin Radio, set up a new company in June called Ginger On-Line to handle the group’s new media activities. The Virgin Radio site was launched more than two years ago by the station’s financial controller at the time, John Ousby, who took responsibility for everything relating to new media.

He moved to Ginger Media Group when it acquired the broadcaster at the end of last year, and as director of Ginger On-Line his brief is to work with Web design agency 4i on the Virgin Radio site, which was relaunched in September. He also controls the TFI Website, which went live in September, and a Ginger brand site which is being launched next year for special promotions and Internet only events.

“Although we have an in-house creative team, including three producers, we still use 4i because it has design expertise. Ginger On-line was formed to ensure all Website marketing is integrated into the group’s overall activities. They are also being used to help us develop global brands,” says Ousby.

While banner advertising can be launched in a day if the need is there, building a new site can, as in the case of Patek Philippe and Ginger Media, take months. If a client wants an in-depth site constructed quickly, then the marketing team and the agency must often be prepared to make sacrifices on the content.

New media design agency rd2 was asked to create an Internet site for Sega Europe in five weeks. Designer Gary Haslam liaised with Sega’s assistant European product manager, Steve Wombwell, who had to gather all the site content from the different companies under the Sega Europe umbrella.

The ideas suggested by rd2 included a Sega Forum, where consumers can e-mail their questions about the release dates of games and formats.

But Haslam says the time and budget constraints meant he was unable to include online ordering, a service which is offered on the US site. This feature will be added later.

It is likely that the growth in e-commerce will demand even more client input in the future.

Will Mackenzie, associate director at strategic communications consultants CbH, says the debate will continue over whether client companies need a dedicated new media specialist with marketing and IT skills to work alongside their existing agency. “These people will be hard to find but will be essential if a company is to fully exploit the Internet. The degree of detail that is involved electronically is equal to any other marketing discipline,” he says.

New media is a new marketing discipline for many brand managers, but they cannot afford to ignore it completely and hide behind a specialist agency – or the technology. When considering the role of the Internet in the advertising and marketing mix, the client’s input is crucial.

The Internet

Online Information Online Information 98 is taking place from December 8-10 at The National Hall & Olympia Conference Centre in London.

The event, which has been running for 22 years and is the largest information industry show in the world. Last year, the exhibition featured more than 300 stands, and attracted about 17,500 visitors. Nearly 1,000 delegates attended the conference side, a large percentage from overseas.

This year, Online Information will be launching four new shows under its umbrella aimed at professional end-users from “information-rich” industries.

Online Information for Sales & Marketing is one of these new shows and is designed to help educate sales and marketing professionals about the benefits of using information online and which databases contain the data they need. This conference programme takes place on December 9 and will provide information on where and how to use online to market and sell your own data.

Each if the four new shows will have a physical “Expo” area on the exhibition floor and Information Trail linking exhibitors in this area with relevant exhibitors on the main exhibition floor. Each will culminate in a production presentation theatre.

Online Information 98’s marketing director Jill Cousins says: “These four new shows will reach out to the professionals in these specific market sectors for whom accessing information online is indispensable to their business needs.”

The other three shows are called Accountancy & Finance, Health & Pharmaceutical, and Investment & Security.

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