Letters, Oct. 5, 2009

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Goliaths Are a subplot, not the main story

RE: "Small Shops Should Be Part of Balanced Review Process" (Sept. 21). With due deference to Sir Martin, gains made by large holding companies in the past 12 months of the recession are not the trending story in advertising.

While WPP, Interpublic, Publicis and others can be commended for restoring their stock prices to their pre-crash levels, it's hardly big news to see major global clients consolidating assignments for efficiency and convenience. What is big news is the continuing emergence of small and midsize shops as viable competition to those same behemoths. We see Venables Bell pick up Intel, beating out IPG's McCann. We see Strawberry Frog awarded Pampers for digital, beating out WPP's Bridge Worldwide. And Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners beat out WPP's Grey (among others) for RadioShack.

I have nothing against holding companies and agree that there are assignments which only a large and sophisticated network can handle. But the real trend is toward the buzzer-beating upsets, in which lithe, smart, genuinely integrated shops can not only play alongside the big boys, but beat them at their own game.

John Barker
New York

More insight-driven snapshots, please

Kudos on "Which to Pitch" (AA, Sept. 28), which shows Ad Age at its very best! The depth of coverage, Jean Halliday's skilled point of view and the wealth of insight collectively created two pages of sheer magnificence. This format should become a regular Ad Age feature that provides snapshots on key industries of interest to your readers.

As an automotive enthusiast and collector, your auto-account guide particularly resonated with both my personal passions as well as a category that is of great importance to us at Twentysomething, Inc. since young adults will play an influential role in driving the auto industry out of its current rut.

David A. Morrison

Thinking of a fix for online advertising

RE: "How Can We Fix Online Advertising?" (AdAge.com, Sept. 28). While I completely agree with those comments that wave the "branding" banner when it comes to display advertising, it's a tough sell and a hard argument to make to marketing directors that are under increasing scrutiny to show short-term sales results. Unlike TV, print and other traditional marketing methods, the focus of display ads will always be on click-through over branding, simply by virtue of being so easily and immediately measurable.

The branding argument ends up sounding like an agency excuse: "It's OK that nobody clicked on the ad we designed for you -- think of the brand exposure you got!"

Part of the problem is simply that, unlike traditional marketing methods, online display advertising isn't linear, so taking an action causes a disruption. For example, TV provides a linear experience: Long show segment. Commercial. Commercial. Long show segment. Commercial. Next show.

Print is the same: Article. Article. Ad. Article. Ad. Ad.

They don't require immediate action on the consumers' part, nor would any action need to interrupt the current viewing or reading experience.

The same can't be said for display advertising. With display, the ads are not linear -- they are mixed in with and surround content. The mere presentation makes them a secondary thought.

If branding really were more important than click-through then this wouldn't pose a problem. But that's not the case. Further, clicking on a banner creates a disruption, either bringing consumers to a new page or causing a new browser window to appear in front of what the consumer was already reading. In a sense, we're asking people to abandon the content they've come to a site to read or watch and voluntarily replace it with marketing content. Not a great trade-in.

That doesn't mean display advertising doesn't have a place and can't be successful.

The real solution is less about more creative display ads and more about realistic pricing. My prediction is that next year, when News Corp. no longer provides free content, other large media outlets will follow suit, and with a smaller but highly targeted readership, and additional revenue from membership, these content sources will be able to put together more cost-effective and realistic packages that blaze a trail for more-successful display advertising.

Jason Miletsky
PFS Marketwyse
Totowa, N.J.

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