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NET.WORKING: Advertising your site: Real-world tales

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A few columns ago I strongly urged Web marketers to consider advertising their businesses in traditional media instead of just using online banners and links. Almost immediately, I drew a response from a Web publisher who had spent $15,000 on targeted print ads and drawn exactly one visitor over a four-month campaign. I had to agree that was a pretty bad CPM.

The publisher, Sao Ricardo, is the creator of Bodywise, an ad-supported health and fitness resource site that exists only online. Having gotten no response from her print ads in two fitness magazines, her view now is that people reading magazines or watching TV simply aren't motivated to take down URLs for later Web site visits.

Better to catch them online, she says: "When people are at their screens, the blinking mouse calls them to action."

But the question intrigued her and she posted a call for more opinions on the Internet Advertising Discussion List. Since most Internet entrepreneurs are absolutely locked to the idea of search engines and free links as the primary spur to traffic, I figured the idea of buying real-world advertising was not going to go over well.

To my surprise, with one or two exceptions, most respondents were enthusiastic in their support of every kind of affordable advertising -- "affordable" being the key word, of course.

One company used college newspapers to draw employment candidates to job-recruitment Web sites. The cost, said the writer, was between $2 and $10 CPM for offline classified ads vs. 30 to 40 for online ads. In one case, the first time one ad ran, the site drew nearly 200 visitors. Weekly cost: $100.

Another took on the issue of customer motivation raised by Ms. Ricardo: "I have two personal and anecdotal experiences to illustrate why advertising in traditional media makes sense for Web marketers," said the respondent. "First, I was driven to get online originally by AOL's television ads that offered free time to sign up. Second, just yesterday, a full-page newspaper ad, featuring William Shatner and a cogent and easy to remember URL made me go to priceline.com to check out airline fares. Worked like a charm."

That goes precisely to the point of my original column. While offline advertising may not make sense for every Web business (as Ms. Ricardo's experience makes clear), it surely does for the biggest businesses.

Too many cybercompanies feel there's no point advertising to the 60% of U.S. homes that don't have computers. But online banners and links only reach the relatively small pool of already committed Webheads. For e-commerce to grow, businesses have to give the vast army of unwired a reason to go online.

For example, Barnes & Noble will never beat Amazon.com if it only uses online advertising; Amazon.com already owns that audience. But I noticed in last week's Sunday New York Times that Barnes & Noble had bought a page real-world ad. The message is clear: Why fight for Amazon's online customers when you can swamp them with newcomers instead?

That's the bottom line for all seriously competitive e-commerce brands: The way to win in cyberspace is to help convince the rest of America that there's a reason to come along for the ride. And that means advertising your message where they can see it.

David Klein is associate publisher-editor of the Ad Age Group. He can be reached at dklein@crain.com.

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