Advertising expenditure for dot-coms has grown with such pace that many media owners can’t see past the pound signs in front of their eyes. And in the rush to take the money, dot-coms are often treated as a homogeneous group rather than individual brands.
Short-term myopia seems to be based upon the premise that most of the number two brands to market will fail. This lazy argument takes no account of the number of times they will come back with their cash before potential burnout. There is also little desire to spot the potential winners through informed insight.
Last week I spoke to three national press sales directors about their advertising pricing policy for dot-coms. All three denied that newspapers were hiking rates across the board. They all, however, then went on to argue why their newspaper was justified in charging dot-coms premium rates, giving credence to the blanket approach to pricing.
Premium press rates will inevitably close the cost gap between press and television, resulting in the re-evaluation of the affordability of television for some press advertisers.
The plethora of dot-coms currently advertising on television has raised the issue of “clashing”. The domination of e-commerce brands advertising during the Superbowl on American TV illustrates the extent of the problem.
The issue is exacerbated for dot-coms because of the nature of their advertising message. The necessity of imparting the Website address often results in the focus of the copy being shifted from the brand (and what it represents), to getting across the site’s address. The result can be a string of dot-coms in the same commercial break that may not be direct competitors but ultimately share the same aim – to get viewers to remember their address and then visit their site.
To illustrate the point, consider a break with the following advertisers: amazon.com (books and more online), jungle.com (computer and entertainment superstore), hmv.com (online music store), lastminute.com (last minute purchases) and charlottestreet.com (“where women meet on the Web”). None of these would be highlighted as clashes. But if my wife decides to buy the new Oasis CD online, she could find it at Amazon, Jungle or HMV. Lastminute and Charlottestreet do not sell CDs but do link to online music sites.
Agencies with dot-com clients should be questioning more thoroughly the effectiveness of placing ads alongside indirect dot-com competitors, and more opportunities for solus dot-com advertising should be made available. For example, spots in The Champions League football matches (exclusively live to ONdigital) have been sold to a single dot-com.
Dot-coms deserve a more considered approach from media owners and agencies alike. Their progress ultimately depends upon investment of time and not just money.
Ian Clark is media director at Booth Lockett Makin.