While delighted to see the well-reported story "Safe at any speed?" (AA, Jan. 24), on Internet-based marketing research, and letters that poured in afterwards, I'd like to comment on three key themes the article raised:
* Security. Online research is safer than the tone of the article would imply. One breech, while understandably serious, may have catapulted this story onto Ad Age's front page, but our company and others conduct thousands of online projects without incident. Creating a secure environment is taken as seriously by online marketing research companies as it is by our traditional competitors. Let's not forget, offline methodologies have security risks, as well.
* Representation. Regarding successful "representation of consumers generally," today's sophisticated marketers are in fact looking for highly targeted consumer samples, many of which are actually easier to assemble online than off. Like any tool, online research should be used only when appropriate.
The good news is that increased penetration of the Net means increased access to consumers of every description. Importantly, the online "digital consumer" is the audience that most marketers want to understand. In short, if the consumer is online, he or she has the money and the mindset to buy marketers' products and services.
* Confidence in validity. Today's leading companies are doing more research projects online because once they try it they trust it. Yes, speed is important to address today's shorter marketing cycles. They also have learned it is often better (because precise target samples can be found), and richer (because the quality and depth of response is greater). When online survey and focus group researchers apply valid methodologies to sample and survey techniques, time and again companies are getting the data they need to make decisions with confidence.
Offline researchers, such as [Groups Plus President] Thomas L. Greenbaum ("Focus groups vs online," Forum, AA, Feb. 14) claim focus groups conducted online are inferior, but this simply is not the case. Online moderators have the same training; online focus groups allow clients full interaction with the group; and products or other stimuli often can be shown to participants more effectively online in today's world of virtual reality, especially when the subject matter is a Web site evaluation or other Internet-related issue.
I'd like to applaud the various corporate representatives who spoke about the advantages of online research and hope their acceptance is the message most readers carried away from this article.
President-CEO, Greenfield Online
Ad lines live on and on
With all due respect to Arnold Communications, whose work I admire, the Jan. 17 Ad Age report on its campaign for Royal Caribbean International, describing the "Like no vacation on Earth" tag as "new," took me aback ("Royal Caribbean christens new baby boomer effort," AA, Jan. 17).
And back to 1995, at McKinney & Silver, where Annette Simon (now a creative director with GSD&M) and I worked on a campaign for Royal Caribbean. Our strategy was to attack the so-called "land-locked" vacations, so the thematic "Like no vacation on Earth" was a natural. Alas, the campaign never ran but the thematic lived on through several later M&S campaigns and, it seems, through an agency change.
Now if we could just figure a way for creatives to get residuals..
President, Ashby Communications
Daniel Snyder has been rumored to be a bit controlling and too involved with the day-to-day operations of the Washington Redskins, but even he doesn't have enough control to move his team from one sports league to another. The Washington Redskins belong to the National Football League -- not the National Basketball Association -- as reported in "Havas joins three suitors wooing Snyder" (AA, Jan. 24).
Carrie S. Trimble
Department of Advertising
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Mich.
In "Consumer magazine advertising linage" (Jan. 31, P. 48), the full-year 1998 ad page total for Popular Photography is 2,029.6 and the full-year 1999 ad page total for Elle is 2,226.0.