Internet Marketing and the New Rules for Advertisers

Execs from Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL Share Their Views

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Traditional media owners and conservative marketers are fond of noting that one medium has never replaced another. Perhaps that aging adage gives them comfort and helps them feel that their resistant, mommy-the-water's-cold tiptoeing into the new-media era is actually wise circumspection.

This time around, however, it is going to prove little more than wishful thinking. It's not that over-the-Web content will necessarily replace other media-although there's a growing list of traditional media brands with limited lifespans-but that it totally changes all media and all the old media and marketing rules.

The extent of the Web's influence is yet to be seen. With help from Thomas Friedman we may envision a world so flat, and citizens so informed, that the only way to win will be having the right product or service at the right price, because no amount of advertising lipstick will mask a flawed offering. But crystal-ball talk aside, there are already enough rule-shattering shifts taking place right now to keep curious minds buzzing about the opportunities and obstacles.

Last week I moderated a panel discussion of those shifts, at the ARF's Re:Think conference in New York's ghastly Marriot Marquis. On the panel: Yahoo's Greg Coleman, Google's Tim Armstrong, Microsoft's Joanne Bradford, AOL's Michael Barrett and Clark Kokich from Avenue A/ Razorfish. What follows are some new rules courtesy of these smart panelists.

Pull down the walls: The Net just isn't going to fit into one of those neat little silos marketing is so fond of. To quote Kokich: "The Internet is not just an advertising medium. It's a sales channel and CRM tool. The best online marketers have learned to optimize everything from the first impression via a third-party publisher, through the Web site experience and on to online customer care and retention email."

Search and display must integrate: You've seen the Pontiac ads that end with the Google screen, right? You've heard about Google's offline ad brokering. So you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, Yahoo has a forest of studies you ought to read. Your display advertising-online and offline-has to take into account and drive your search marketing. As Coleman said, "search and display will be measured holistically and this will require [rethinking] organizational issues and measurement." AKA: If search reports in to a different person than display, it's time to change that.

Convergence demands new creative: How many millions of people have to watch the NCAA or Winter Olympics on their computers before we know convergence is upon us? As Barrett said: "You're not just thinking 2-feet away on a 17-inch screen, but also about 15-feet view on a 60-inch screen."

Google is a fund manager: The search giant is already working with 88 of the marketers in the Ad Age 100. And, interestingly, Armstrong talks about them as investors, not advertisers, people whose brand and product "assets" need to be taken into the digital realm and managed and optimized for ROI.

All they need is scale, inventory and talent. The TV giants are trying to grab digital dollars to keep growing their market. But that doesn't phase the likes of Yahoo and MSN. They know the world is moving their way. But, as Bradford outlined, players like MSN are still turning away hundreds of millions of dollars because they don't have the operational scale to take advertisers' money. Yahoo, MSN and AOL still need more pages, more people and an IAB that can create some effective ad standards.
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