Setting their sites

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Strange thing about the last year. While you were watching your portfolio of Internet stocks decline, your target market probably was spending more time than ever on the Web. True, click-through rates on banner ads are near their low-for every 1,000 banner ads, fewer than four got a click in June, according to Nielsen/NetRatings-but the Internet eyeballs are more numerous than ever. They just aren't staring at poorly crafted ads.

Which is why, in this Interactive Special Report, Advertising Age takes a look at how 10 brands are experimenting with online marketing, trying to grapple with the future. Mostly, these are big brands with an interest in the youth market. These brand marketers sense the dot-com meltdown may one day be treated as a footnote in the growth of digital media and have noticed the disconnect between the ever-growing number of failed dot-coms and the ever-growing number of online users.

Some interesting statistics:

During March 2000, just weeks before the mid-April collapse of the Nasdaq, Yahoo! had a total audience of 145 million unique users who collectively saw an average of 625 million page views daily during the same month. In June 2001, Yahoo! had 200 million unique users, and an almost 100% increase in daily page views to 1.2 billion.

By the end of March 2000, AOL Time Warner's America Online had 22.2 million members. At the end of June 2001, that number stood at 30.1 million. Even troubled Excite@Home would have a great business, if only success were solely based on demand for its broadband service. As the company struggles to raise more funding, it reported last month its subscriber base had risen to 3.3 million homes. That's an increase of 120% compared with the pre-crash first quarter of last year, when the company had 1.5 million residential broadband subscribers.

The increase in broadband users has significant ramifications. According to Arbitron, people with broadband (so-called "speedies") spend about as much time online as they do with TV, using the Net for two hours and 16 minutes per day and TV slightly less.

Do the marketers profiled have the Net entirely figured out? As stated by Anheuser-Busch Cos.' VP-Corporate Media, Peter McLoughlin, it's clearly no. He says, "Frankly, at times it's difficult to tell exactly what impact these campaigns have. We know we're reaching an important audience, an adult audience that has discretionary income ... potential consumers of our products. So we think they're the right audience."

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