Web marketers have to stop changing metrics: expert

TORONTO — Internet marketers bear some responsibility for their sales struggles, according to one advertising executive.

Erik Thrane, director of interactive for Young &Rubicam in Toronto, meeting of the Internet Advertising

Bureau of Canada Tuesday that Internet marketers have been their “”own worst enemy”” by continuously changing the success measurements for Web advertising. Click-throughs gave way to page views, for example, which gave way to unique visitors and so on.

“”Our biggest challenge right now is convincing our clients that we actually know what we’re doing because we keep changing,”” Thrane said.

Thrane, an audience member at the IAB’s town hall meeting, offered up his assessment as panelists tried to reconcile the reality of Internet advertising with what they agreed is the Internet’s incredible marketing potential. There are 15.5 million Canadians on the Net each month, half of which visit an online retail site in that time period, according to Jupiter Media Metrix Canada president Brent Bernie.

“”They (the 15.5 million Web users) are probably more wealthy than the other 15 million,”” added Miles Faulkner, vice-president of business development and alliances for Toronto-based interactive professional services firm

Bluespark. “”To not advertise there doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s about how you advertise.””

But Thrane said the importance of targeting ads applies to pitches made to clients as well as consumers. He said the ad industry is full of individuals, himself included, who are perhaps too enamoured with the technology, the idea of bringing clients more and more interactivity.

“”I don’t think we’re being customer-centric,”” he said.

And the overload extends from the ads themselves to the myriad of measurements for Web marketing success. Web marketing’s greatest strength — the ability to measure the success of a campaign by direct sales as well as page impressions and unique visitors — is also showing itself to be a considerable weakness.

“”My sense is that in advertiserland, they want to know if it’s going to work,”” said Jeff Osborne, president of ComQUEST Research Inc. “”And that’s scary because there’s so much out there now in terms of measurement.””

“”The problem is right now the quality of data is getting lost in the volume,”” Thrane added.

Faulkner said it is unfair that Web campaigns are subject to such scrutiny.

“”I think it’s ridiculous that Internet advertising is held up to different standards than magazine advertising,”” he said. ‘The reality is it’s just the same as traditional advertising in making you aware of the brand.””

But Thrane said Internet marketers brought this upon themselves by promising the ability to measure audience response like no other medium. So Web advertising is cursed with added scrutiny even as it competes with mediums — television in particular — that have to their credit decades of proven effectiveness, or at least perceived proven effectiveness.

Though Osborne’s research claims that Internet is as able, or more able, to attract users to entering contests, selling CEOs on Web advertising is hard because many don’t use it or understand it. Thrane said companies that target youth — PepsiCo Inc., Nintendo of Canada Ltd. — are easier to sell than for example, consumer packaged goods companies and is optimistic that Web advertising will get more attention as members of the Net generation get into senior management positions.

But Osborne said Internet marketers must work to re-invigorate their ad campaigns. He said companies should change their ads frequently to increase interest from Web surfers, which has dropped off recently. Twenty-seven per cent of users in Canada currently think Web ads are effective, compared to 50 per cent in Sept. 1999.

“”The (initial) thrill is gone, it appears,”” he said.

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