By PAUL SIMON, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 13 June 1997 12:00AM
When asked about the significance of the 1789 French Revolution,
Mao Tse Tung replied: ’It’s too soon to say.’
Likewise, the reaction of many UK media cognoscenti to the importance of
online advertising has been at best cautious and at worst
Yet, as John Owen’s article (Campaign, 30 May) demonstrated, the UK
online advertising market is in the early stages of considerable growth
with projected revenues of pounds 86 million by 1999.
A national business of this size is more than a mere pious hope. The US
market has shown growth rates that have lifted the market from less than
pounds 3 million in 1994 to pounds 300 million-plus in 1996. Equally,
Microsoft’s pounds 400-million purchase of the leading Web on TV company
suggests that this market will not fade away.
But it’s not enough for ’Webangelists’ to sit back and wait for the good
times to roll. The market needs a proper direction to its growth. There
are three key conditions that need to be addressed this year to allow
online media to take full advantage of future growth.
First, the principal sales operations need to show a convergence in how
they price Websites. Owen’s article illustrated that the four leading
sales houses had radically different and incompatible ratecard
Nothing is more likely to have non-specialist planner/buyers in despair
as they attempt to schedule campaigns across such different pricing
It’s imperative that the main sales houses/publishers achieve a basic
degree of ratecard compatibility at the mid-June meeting of the, as yet
untitled, forum set up for this purpose.
Second, radical changes are needed on the planning and buying side. With
the exception of a few agencies, there appears to be a dislocation
between the online department and mainstream planning/buying. It has
been TSMSi’s experience that a sales proposition may be well received by
the online professionals only to be ’lost’ in internal agency turf wars.
The recent launch of bespoke planning and buying services within some
agency interactive departments will help to improve media
Third, the market needs a basic code of best practice. The most pressing
issue is that of the independent Web agencies. These are companies which
have begun to diversify out from their core Website design/production
business to incorporate account management and media planning and,
occasionally, buying functions.
In some examples, such as CHBi and AKQA, there is an effective and
innovative union of all these disciplines. In others, the media
planning/buying function is poorly understood in concept and worse in
A small minority persists in trying to plan and buy for accounts they
simply don’t have. This serves only to undermine both client advertiser
and the Website owner’s confidence in the industry.
In addition, there is the related and potentially explosive issue of how
Web agencies are paid for booking online campaigns, since none are
recognised by the Periodical Publishers Association. The Digital
Marketing Group, comprising 18 online departments of major agencies, is
the best-placed forum to give direction to this issue.
I believe this must be done in such a way that genuinely raises
standards of online planning and buying and codifies the resulting
remuneration structure. It must not operate as an old-fashioned guild
designed to exclude the new kids on the block.
In other media, these issues are an established fact of professional
life. For the emerging online ad market they demand rapid agreement to
allow a mature and successful medium to develop - and it’s not too soon
to say that.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk