Marketers are crowding onto the 'net as fast as they can, each trying to outdo the other with flashy graphics and deep databases. Judging by the big names that have opened sites in recent months, this is the new interactive place to see and be seen.
As recently as six months ago, however, marketers shied away from the Internet, fearing flames from angry computer users. But those fears have gone by the wayside as the World Wide Web, a portion of the Internet containing multimedia pages that are linked together, has gained popularity.
The Web, it seems, is the answer to marketers' Internet woes. Instead of stomping on sacred Internet territory, marketers can construct "home pages," offering information about their company and a chance for computer users to respond.
Just how many people are accessing the World Wide Web is debatable; most say the figure is under 3 million, only a fraction of the estimated 25 million Internet users worldwide.
Advertising Age visited the Internet home pages of 22 marketers recently, ranging from MCI to Miller Genuine Draft. The survey, a representative sample of what's out there, surprised us, but the surprises weren't always pleasant.
Some marketers stuck to the mundane-and boring-by offering annual reports, exhaustive technical information and articles lifted from company newsletters. Others were more adventurous, testing the Internet's capabilities with snazzy graphics and downloadable movies and audio samples.
Many marketers apologized upfront for areas that are still under construction. Some home pages took several tries to log in correctly. Others offered features that upon further investigation weren't really there or weren't what they seemed.
And for now, none of the marketers surveyed is conducting transactions online. Although several allow you to order merchandise, you've still got to pick up the phone to do it.
Cruising the Web is also time-consuming. Graphic images sometimes take many minutes to download, and audio and video files can take much longer. The payoff isn't always worth the wait.
Clearly, the World Wide Web is still a testing ground for marketers. What was there when we reviewed it may not be there today. Some early efforts are destined to fall by the wayside as disillusioned marketers find the 'net not to their liking. Others are on their way to greatness. Read on to find out which ones.