Push--generally defined as information that's delivered to Web users via their PCs over personal broadcast services or e-mail--has been hyped as a targeted Web medium that will deliver marketers' messages straight to consumers.
However, the numbers are showing that the response from users and marketers is less than overwhelming.
"Push as a phenomenon hasn't gotten the amount of traction many expected it to get," said Bill Doyle, senior analyst-media and technologies strategies at Forrester Research.
24% OF WEB SURFERS USE PUSH
In Advertising Age's fifth annual Interactive Media Study, conducted in September by Market Facts in a telephone survey of 2,000 adults, just 24.2% of the 584 respondents who had used the Web in the past six months said they currently use a push service.
Only 29.1% of the Web users said they'd be interested in using one, while a whopping 67.8% said they wouldn't.
And on the marketer side, use of push as an ad vehicle has been rather limited, depending on who's gathering the data and how they're defining push.
The most positive numbers come from a report published in October by Forrester, titled "Push: Beyond the Hysteria." Out of 50 Web site managers interviewed, 32 said they were using push technology, and the rest said they were experimenting with it.
For the purposes of the report, Forrester defined push as e-mail, broadcast (including TV broadcasting to the PC), off-line browsing and personal broadcast networks such as PointCast Network and BackWeb.
However, this sample was skewed to technology-savvy new-media managers.
In an August study titled "Branding on the Web," Forrester interviewed 50 major advertisers--each spending more than $100 million on advertising over the next two years--to find out what form branding would take on the Internet.
Pushed ads came in low, with 28% of marketers saying they'd use them to brand. The leading form of branding was the Web site itself (96%), followed by banners (88%) and sponsorships (74%).
Only interstitial ads (4%) or other forms of ads (4%) ranked lower than push as a way for marketers to get their branding messages across.
"The big brands today have concentrated their dollars on things that lead to a direct interaction with the customer," said Mr. Doyle, author of the report.
HOTLINK ISN'T THERE
"Push doesn't have that kind of connection. The hotlink back to something--whether it's a microsite or sweepstakes--isn't there," Mr. Doyle said.
However, he added, "This is another stage in the long-term evolution of Internet computing. Broad consumer use of push is two to three years away."
Jupiter Communications has even more conservative estimates concerning the use of push today and how long it will take to reach widespread penetration.
Peter Storck, group director of online advertising at Jupiter, said that push will account for only about 5% of the $940 million projected this year for online ad spending.
That number is expected to reach 25% of total ad spending by 2001, Mr. Storck said.
MORE INTRUSIVE ADVERTISING
"There are not that many opportunities for an advertiser to buy push," he said. "You can buy PointCast and you can send direct e-mail, but that at the moment is about it."
"Advertisers like the early signs of push," he added. "It's more intrusive and it's more like TV. The downside is there's less reach."
But that's expected to change, with the recent launches of both Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Netcaster, both of which have signed up hundreds of channel partners to provide content for their new push services. Users, meanwhile, seem inclined to accept certain uses of push.
Of the Web users in the Ad Age survey, 58.6% said they'd like to receive news through push technology, followed by product information (41.3%), entertainment (40.4%) and advertising (17.1%), with 29.3% holding out for no push.
`YOU CAN'T DO IT RIGHT NOW'
When asked if they'd sign up for an incentive program that gave them points redeemable for prizes or cash in exchange for agreeing to accept e-mail ads and promotions, 23.9% said they would, while 70.9% said they wouldn't. Some 5% said they didn't know.
The bottom line for marketers is that as consumers begin to accept push and the technology companies devise new ways to use it, push could still be worthy of the hype it's received.
"If you want to do some big splash and brand the Web [using push], you can't do it right now," said Jupiter's Mr. Storck. "But the opportunities for doing it are coming."
Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.