I read with great interest Christopher M. Schroeder's Forum essay on the swinging pendulum of acceptance of online advertising ("Swinging back to the I-future," AA, May 28). I agree with his thesis that ad and syndication support, rather than subscription support, will be the primary revenue drivers for online media, and that we have only just begun to see the true power of targeted online advertising. On that second point, though, I would be even more strident. My confidence in the online ad industry's future is strongly reinforced because we are finally starting to focus on the basics.
Over the past six years, we as an industry told everyone that would listen about the amazing characteristics of online advertising: the low cost of marginal reach, incredible micro-targeting, endless interactivity, transparent measurement, direct connection to purchase and attractive user demographics. We didn't put in place most of the basic tools that were necessary to make it work. We focused on the promise and potential and let the execution and fundamentals slip.
We talked about industry standards, but were slow to set them and even slower to adopt them. We talked about full and transparent audience measurement, yet we delivered panel-based audience ratings that no one was sure were accurate and which were not actionable. We talked about delivering "one-to-one" customer relationships, but we targeted ads haphazardly and kept delivering undifferentiated "eyeballs" when advertisers wanted qualified prospects.
When marketers complained of low ad click-throughs or user interaction rates, we didn't apply fundamental media principles and improve the creative and the offers. We turned first to "black box" optimization that was understood by neither buyers nor sellers (though we didn't mind paying a lot of money for them). Now, I am confident that things are changing.
We are now starting to talk about industry metrics such as audited page views, real audience profiles and end-to-end tracking. We are talking about online advertising as part of coordinated campaigns across multiple media channels. As an industry, we are giving a new emphasis to our trade organization, the Interactive Ad-vertising Bureau, and are recognizing that the best intentions mean nothing without membership follow-through.
All in all, we have had a very good six years. We got a bit ahead of ourselves. And now I think we are poised to deliver on the promise of online advertising-the most addressable, measurable, cost-effective media invented to date.
Copy testing's role
Re: the editorial "GM tune-up" (Viewpoint, AA, April 30):
Its viewpoint on [ad] pre-testing seemingly tarred all pre-testing systems with the same brush, and omitted to mention the developmental focus good pre-testing systems should adopt.
It's incredible to think that any decent copy testing system would not show Volkswagen's ads to be highly enjoyable and involving-both key to cutting through and building brand status [and] creating desire to check out the cars. What VW ads may miss the mark on is communication of specific features; but as long as they "drive traffic" to the dealers, who cares?
Importantly, any decent copy testing system should be developmental, not judgmental; help turn what may be a mediocre idea into a great one; help make sure the creative idea stands out and is understood. And, of course, help make sure the brand plays a central role. It should never underestimate, too, the effects of campaign build. Advertisers and brand managers have a tendency to like "one numbers" and some over-rely on these. This level of simplification alienates. And it doesn't create better ads.
True, copy testing results are no substitute for fact-based insight; but they really should make the difference between good and excellent.
Firestone review hit mark
Bob Garfield's analysis of the Firestone campaign ("Firestone bid to rebuild trust comes too late for the wary," AdReview, AA, April 30) was brilliant. I've just completed a new book titled, "Big Brands, Big Trouble. Learned Lessons the Hard Way." There's a chapter on Firestone. It's titled "Dead brand driving." Sound familiar? Garfield should do more columns like this one.
Trout & Partners
Old Greenwich, Conn.
* In the table "Magazine 300 totals for 2000" ("Magazine 300" report, June 18, P. S-1), total ad revenue in 1999 of the Top 300 magazines should have been $19.61 billion, producing a growth of 13% to $22.15 billion in 2000.
* In the table "Top 300 magazines by gross revenue" ("Maga-zine 300" report, June 18, P. S-15), Veranda magazine, published by Veranda Publishing Co., Atlanta, was inadvertently omitted. The magazine, published six times a year, had gross revenue from advertising and circulation of $22.6 million in 2000, up 24.8%, which would have ranked it No. 285 on the list.