OPINION: How adland can learn from the Louise Woodward case - These days, accessing the Net is just child’s play, William Howells says, but few people - including agency staff - see the need for effective planning of the medium
By WILLIAM HOWELLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 November 1997 12:00AM
No newspaper in the country could resist splashing the story across the front pages: ’Judgment on the Net’ hailed the Mirror; ’Louise in limbo as world awaits ruling on Internet’ lamented the Daily Mail; and even the Daily Telegraph reported on page one, ’Woodward to learn fate on Internet’.
No newspaper in the country could resist splashing the story across
the front pages: ’Judgment on the Net’ hailed the Mirror; ’Louise in
limbo as world awaits ruling on Internet’ lamented the Daily Mail; and
even the Daily Telegraph reported on page one, ’Woodward to learn fate
The headlines from those pages were music to my ears. At last the
Internet had shown its true potential as a worldwide communications
medium. What’s been obvious to thousands of Internet advocates who have
made great progress in educating the public, the business world and the
media had finally hit home.
But what’s most interesting about Judge Hiller Zobel’s decision to speak
via the Internet is that he placed a lawful decision on a lawless
Yet an even deeper irony is that when the Internet first hit the
headlines it was as a communicator of vast amounts of technical
information from academics and boffins who had mastered the realm of
http://www when we were all grappling with how to use the latest
whizz-bang fax machine.
Then the public became involved and the Internet became a medium for
airing one’s views, no matter how radical.
So those who put ’Louise Woodward’, into their search engine on the day
the judge’s decision was announced were faced with hundreds of home
pages, some calling for her to be released and for justice to prevail;
others stating they had graphic footage of the alleged incident taking
place; others outlining the girl’s life from birth to imprisonment.
The question must be asked whether the Internet’s application - and the
public’s perception of it - has come full circle. Is the future of the
Internet back to relaying the information we all wish to receive? Or
will fact and fiction - with little distinction from one to the other -
coexist side by side on the Internet happily ever after?
Judge Zobel, a self-confessed techno-dinosaur, was persuaded by his son
to use the Internet (that boy should be in advertising) based on his
knowledge that, within Boston, the Internet is one of the most popular
communications media. Given the international interest generated in the
case, the choice could not have been more fitting.
But what will become of other media if the powers that be (in this
instance, Judge Zobel) decide the Internet is the only distribution
Granted, in this instance, he e-mailed the information to 30 designated
newsrooms. But that is merely a technicality. Tough questions will be
asked in the newsrooms of radio and TV (previously deemed the most
immediate media available) and newspapers about the future if news is
soon to be distributed via the Internet - and the public follows.
There are questions to be asked of advertisers also who are only just
beginning to realise the sponsorship and marketing potential of the
From an advertising perspective, the most valuable lesson to learn from
the entire event is that of planning.
The Internet service provider (ISP) of the www.lawyersweekly.com Website
crashed shortly after the papers hit the newsstand. Worldwide, all those
busy execs with their PCs attached to the Web just couldn’t resist
having a look and overloaded the ill-prepared ISP.
Herein lies the lesson. While it is highly unlikely that any ad linked
with an Internet address would create the amount of traffic Woodward’s
fate did, it’s crucial we remember the Internet is a communications and
marketing medium like any other. It must be timed, planned and released
in harmony with all other media.
Otherwise, the consumer is still left in the dark.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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