Media: Double Standards - 'User-generated content will change our world'

The men selling two major web portals as brand vehicles share their views on the online future and why maturity is in the eye of the beholder.

CHRIS WARD COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, MSN UK

- What distinguishes your company's approach toward advertisers and agencies?

We're obsessed with good customer service. Over the past six months, we've doubled our sales force to create a more customer-facing, flexible team. We will continue to invest in and grow the team to push service levels higher.

- What has been the most exciting development in the online world this year?

The explosion of user-generated content into the mainstream promises to fundamentally change the online world and arguably our whole media landscape.

- Do you feel you are working in a medium that is still in its infancy?

No. Online has already overtaken radio and outdoor and year-on-year figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau show 60 per cent ad revenue growth. Clearly, we're also a long way from maturity. Last month's IAB Engage conference with speakers such as Bill Gates, Sir Martin Sorrell and Lord Puttnam could prove a seminal moment for the industry - with great business leaders like that focusing on online advertising, it shows we're progressing beyond infancy.

- What has been the most impressive innovation from your commercial team this year?

Creativity. We've seen more creative campaigns than ever this year, as advertisers recognise creativity drives engagement and results. Our Specsavers homepage takeover - built in-house at MSN - is a great example.

- How realistic is it to expect online adspend growth to continue at, or exceed, current levels?

It's up to us. The opportunities are there. Take search - as we move to the next generation of search with deeper levels of information and functions such as "pay per call", where you can phone an advertiser direct from your search results, revenues will continue to grow.

- How well is the online ad industry marketing itself collectively against other media?

Advertisers are recognising that their customers are spending more time online, and that online allows them to create engaging, relevant campaigns that deliver great results.The IAB is taking an excellent lead in marketing our industry and driving home these messages.

- What's the best online ad campaign you've seen in recent months?

The Bulldog Broadband ad that ran recently mixed interactivity with beautiful artwork and was completely integrated with the TV campaign.

- How do you view the rise and rise of the paid-for search sector?

Paid-for search is good for advertisers as it's extremely effective at driving results. Plus, we're also seeing a growing branding effect in paid-for search. The next generation of search will be more intuitive, more personal and will give people quicker answers to their questions.

- Would you describe yourself as an early adopter in terms of new technology, and what's the best gadget you possess?

I describe myself as a technology enthusiast. I've had wireless broadband at home for two years, which makes working from home really easy. My other two current favourites are Sky+ and my iPod.

- How do you relax outside of work?

I like good food and wine - preferably with friends. I'm also currently teaching my two boys to fish.

MARK CHIPPENDALE - VICE-PRESIDENT OF SALES, EUROPE, YAHOO!

- What distinguishes your company's approach toward advertisers and agencies?

We are focused on meeting the marketing objectives of brands. In the past, most negotiations between media owners and clients or agencies have concentrated on the cost and quality of the medium, rather than its contribution to achieving the overall objective. We want to be seen by our customers as business partners rather than suppliers.

- What has been the most exciting development in the online world this year?

The inexorable rise of broadband.

- Do you feel you are working in a medium that is still in its infancy?

Maturity is in the eye of the beholder. To the consumer, this is a mature market; online is part of the fabric of their lives and they have become comfortable with using it. In broadband homes, consumers spend twice as long online as narrowband users. The majority of clients and agencies are struggling to handle the sheer pace of change in the media behaviour of consumers. They still use the term "new media", despite the medium's maturity.

- What has been the most impressive innovation from your commercial team this year?

A campaign for the Renault Clio, which featured the line "French car, British designer" and appeared on the UK page. The ad showed a car moving across the UK page against a London skyline, while the French national anthem played in the background. When the car was halfway across the UK homepage, the French homepage slid across the screen and the ad transformed into a Paris skyline playing the British national anthem.

- How realistic is it to expect online adspend growth to continue at, or exceed, current levels?

If online ad revenues continue to grow at their current rate and broadband connections increase as predicted, revenues will catch up with the percentage of media time spent online in 2008. In truth, this is a fairly superficial measurement of online success. What is really important is providing clients and agencies with proof of brand-building effectiveness, as this will drive the market.

- How well is the online ad industry marketing itself collectively against other media?

Guy Phillipson is doing a great job at the IAB. What I have been struck by is the co-operation and common sense of purpose shared by online companies. The market should expect more joint initiatives in the future.

- What's the best online ad campaign you've seen in recent months?

The current Ford Focus ST campaign. It offers a great brand experience, CRM opportunities, DM, engagement, interaction: the whole communications package.

- How do you view the rise and rise of the paid-for search sector?

As well as being a fantastic branding tool, online is a great route to market and paid-for search is a cost-effective way of reaching consumers. It limits risk, as the client decides at what cost they withdraw from the process. However, we believe branding plays an equally important role in driving offline sales.

- Would you describe yourself as an early adopter in terms of new technology, and what's the best gadget you possess?

I'm no tech-head, but I do keep abreast of what is available in the market and have my fair share of gadgets. I love my iPod and Sony Vaio, but the one I use the most is my Treo.

- How do you relax outside of work?

I have a new job, a wife and three kids below the age of ten. What's relaxation?!

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