|Photo: Palace Hotel|
|The famous Garden Court of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The Palace's Conference Center is the venue for this year's sixth annual Ad:Tech.
Other Ad:Tech Stories:
OLD-LINE MARKETERS DRIVE NET AD SPEND SPIKE
Nielsen Study Documents Hefty Budget Shifts to Online
OUT OF ROOM AND BUSINESS CARDS AT AD:TECH
4,000 Attendees Jostle for Product Info at Packed Online Marketing Conclave
One of those was how best to manage the inventory of digital advertisements throughout major Web sites. Another was the thorny debate about how best to use the aggressive visual intrusions of rich-media ads without disillusioning Web readers. Both topics were part of a lively session entitled "Web Publisher Issues" here in the Conference Center of the Palace Hotel.
The three-day event is attended by marketers and ad agency personnel from across the country eager to keep up with the latest in Internet marketing technologies and techniques.
Rich media is clearly one of the hot topics for large numbers of them, getting as much buzz and attention for its meteoric growth as does search engine advertising.
$1 billion prediction
Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the Online Publishers Association, predicted that rich-media placements in online publications would reach $1 billion in ad spending in 2004. He said a recent survey of 1.2 million consumers found a 4.7% brand awareness result for rich-media ads, vs. 3.8% for non-rich media ads. Streaming video ads did even better, with a 12.3% rating for brand awareness among exposed consumers.
Lorraine Ross, vice president of sales for USAToday.com, said ad agencies are increasingly asking to place video forms of rich-media advertising online. However, she noted, rich media is expensive to produce and some vendors of the technology expect publishers to pay those production charges. Not surprisingly, that concept does not excite publishers such as USAToday.com.
"We feel the creator of the ad should pay production charges," Ms. Ross said.
Managing ad growth
Another area of high-interest discussion was the management of online advertising growth across the inventory of available pages or features on any given Web site. Stephen Moss, general manager for advertising and sales for MSN, recalled the boom and bust days and cautiously suggested that the sustainability of rapid increases in ad sales and placements on large sites be carefully gauged. He also joined those calling for a more in-depth audience-management approach, so as to be able to sell all areas of a site to advertisers. He advised publishers to focus on the question of how to create value across the whole Web site, not just the home page or high-traffic areas.
At USAToday.com, Ms. Ross said the online management team was focused on different ways to slice and dice the inventory by using more behavioral targeting or registration data to identify and price it as a marketable ad package.
"It becomes a matter of sophisticated modeling," she said, rather than just the gross number of page views.
Managing the intersection of site content, visiting readers and advertising exposure in a more controlled and targeted manner is widely being called "audience management" as well as "inventory management." A strong theme emerging during the conference was the importance of understanding exactly what Web visitors are looking for or are likely to expect on any given commercial site.
What Web visitors want
On this point, Scot McLernon, executive vice president of sales and marketing at CBS MarketWatch, said "the consumer is the programmer," adding, "Are we doing a really good job giving people what they want when they want it?"
He said that to understand what is successful today, publishers should look at retailer Starbucks, which has done well because it gives people coffee like they want it, and Apple's iTunes Store, which gives people music in the way they want it.
Others raised the issue of finding the delicate balance between a visitor's satisfying experience on a Web publication and the sense of annoyance created by too many ads or too many aggressively intrusive ads. "We can't claim that we don't know what bothers people; we do," said Mr. Moss.
There should be an ongoing tension between advertising standards online and the ongoing evolution of new technology, said Narenda Rocherolle, CEO of Webshots, a Web site that publishes professionals' and consumers' photos and that makes 50% of its revenue from advertising.