Connors: The most important trend online is that marketers are getting more and more savvy in where and how they speak to their online customers. B-to-b online media are unique, in that readers—or more appropriately users—go online to seek and fill a specific need. Unlike print, online users are active, researching and gathering information for a specific purpose. As we know, this makes it ideal for lead-generation opportunity for advertisers, but what about brand marketing? Fact is, online brand marketing is alive and well (if not growing). Lead-generation programs in branded environments—whether banner advertising or sponsored site sections—are more qualified. Not only does this prove the effectiveness of this kind of program, it demonstrates the impact of branding in and of itself. The display advertising medium is also rapidly changing in creativity and full multimedia capabilities. For Web sites that have not yet taken up this capability within their content, it's the advertising that is providing the experience for users. Another interesting trend is that the value of click-through is changing. With new interactive creative the "call to action" is to engage with the ad directly. Users are interacting with the creative itself and not just clicking through. In the old days, a display ad was really a direct marketing vehicle to capture a site visitor. Finally, online display is truly branding that in and of itself carries the message.
What are some of the more unique ways for marketers to reach their target online?
Connors: One of the most interesting new ways for marketers to get in front of their audience is by joining them in user-generated content areas online. I know this can be challenging for some advertisers. There is a loss of control of the content. "Why, these people could say anything!" [But] we have to remember that the Web is full of multiple voices, including the voice of the marketer. Online readers take it all in and make their own decisions. User voices, content from one's peers, is one of the most trusted areas of a site. We all want advice; we want the benefit of experience. I can't think of a better place to have your message. Even if a reader expresses something negative, isn't it vital to have your message there?
How should marketers approach the myriad choices in digital media?
Connors: Packaging, packaging, packaging. Marketers should package messages that follow people through the decision process. What other media allow you to make an overall impression through branding and also capture people at the point of decision? The market is seeing more people begin their information searches within trusted brands. They are migrating from using Google on their home page. So package your message there. I think of online media a little bit like the heady days of lots of direct mail and list rental. Whereby in print you choose a certain limited number of books (say, two or three in a market), the opportunity online is to be more varied in your campaigns. You can test more sites just like testing a list. Test and roll out. The choice is not only in the creative mix but in the media mix.