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New rules of 'engagement'

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Welcome to BtoB's 2007 Interactive Marketing Guide. Our annual publication offers sections on e-mail, search, Web sites, online advertising, online events, b-to-b media sites, social media and interactive agencies. This year, we've added sections on analytics and multimedia, to capture in particular the rapid adoption of online video as a marketing channel. In addition to overviews of the various topics, the guide provides tips, expert interviews and sidebars with useful resources and data. You'll also find updated vendor lists and data charts.

A recurring theme throughout this year's guide is how interactive marketers are being forced to rethink what they should measure. These shifts are being prompted by at least two developments: new technologies (principally Web 2.0, which permits user interactivity and participation) and shifting online consumption habits (from reading static pages to listening to and viewing multimedia, especially video).

The "page view" counter is yesterday's news. In its place are emerging metrics that track user behaviors and interactions, over time and over different channels, with an eye to assessing "engagement"—a term with many definitions, as Jim Sterne, president of the Web Analytics Association, makes clear in his essay "How much do you love me?".

For Rob Bagot, executive VP- executive creative director at McCann Worldgroup San Francisco, "engagement is much broader than advertising" and reflects the need to "orchestrate" various media channels to reach a goal. What metric does Bagot think is most pertinent to engagement? Time. "Just like the speed of light is a constant, units of time are a great way to measure engagement—time on a Web site, watching streaming video," he said.

Engaging consumers has another powerful advantage: The chance to listen in and learn about their needs.

Martin Reidy, president of Modem Media, talks about The Hive, a product discussion site the agency launched for client Microsoft Corp. two-and-a-half years ago. "Microsoft also started realizing this would help them with product development," Reidy said.

Is there a risk marketers will spend time and money developing these compelling, interactive sandboxes and not see a sufficient return on investment?

No, contends Bagot, who notes his agency has measured customer satisfaction with Web sites and finds that the rating increases the more time a visitor spends on a site. "I have to believe that a satisfied customer will result in more sales," he said.

One way online marketers are trying to increase engagement is by leveraging the power of social networking and user-generated content. Jupiter Research recently reported that 48% of brand marketers plan to use social marketing tactics in the next year, a 10% increase over the past year.

Video is another hot engagement tactic.

"We produce commercials—broadcast and online—webcasts, Web seminars, interactive tours (rich media microsites), rich media demos, podcasts, rich media e-mails and more," said Jim Davis, senior VP-CMO of SAS, one of the five marketers participating in our virtual roundtable (see page 4).

According to research from eMarketer—our data partner in this guide—online video advertising spending will rise from $775 million this year to $2.9 billion in 2010. An American Advertising Federation survey of U.S. advertising executives estimates the percentage of media budget allocated to online video will hit 14.9% this year.

Overall, marketing spending on the Internet continues its unstoppable upward trajectory. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Internet advertising revenue for 2006 was estimated at $16.8 billion, a 34% increase from $12.5 billion in 2005.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at ebooker@crain.com

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