OPINION: MILLS ON ... DOTCOMS AND AWARENESS

Allow me to luxuriate in a moment of self-indulgence. About six months ago, I wrote a column that was pretty rude about BMP DDB’s campaign for boo.com which, until its recent demise, was described as Europe’s best-funded start-up.

Allow me to luxuriate in a moment of self-indulgence. About six

months ago, I wrote a column that was pretty rude about BMP DDB’s

campaign for boo.com which, until its recent demise, was described as

Europe’s best-funded start-up.



You know the campaign - the one with the geeks rushing around a

basketball court and so on. I didn’t much like the ads. I certainly

didn’t understand them. But what really bothered me was the fact that

they failed to explain clearly what boo did.



As luck would have it, the column appeared on the very day of BMP’s

annual knees-up for Campaign. Cue much joshing from the assembled BMP

creatives (not to mention grossly disloyal colleagues from the magazine)

and insinuations that I was too old and untrendy for such a streetwise

brand. Well, sorry guys.



Of course, it’s unfair to put all the blame for boo’s downfall on the

advertising. Poor financial management, technology failures and

difficulties with stock control all played a part. Still, going by the

old adage that nothing kills off a bad product faster than good

advertising, it would be fun to speculate how much earlier boo would

have gone under had its advertising been any good. January probably.



While I’m in perverse mode, here’s another conundrum. Was boo’s

advertising so bad because it had too much money? I mean, if you’re

tight for money you can’t afford advertising that doesn’t get your

message across. Boo, on the other hand, had about pounds 20 million and

clearly took the view that looking edgy, cool and radical was more

important than making its proposition clear.



Not that it will be much consolation, but boo is not the only dotcom

that may be suffering from this affliction. There are times when I’m

very grateful that I can turn to my copy of Campaign for an explanation

of an ad. Take Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy’s poster for Self Trade,

which asks: ’Can you spot the five dogs in this picture?’ above a

picture of, er, five dogs. Actually I found six - if you include the

idea, that is.



But I had to read the story (page 7 last week if you’re stuck too) in

order to understand what Self Trade was all about. Call me stupid, but

doesn’t that defeat the object of a poster?



Similarly, Moonfruit, which is that very strange ad with some naked

people doing bottom painting at the local art college.



Apparently, Moonfruit brings communities of like-minded people together

whatever their passion.



However, when it comes to the jet-set duck in the Travelstore ads, I am,

I’m afraid, utterly lost for words. If there’s anybody out there who

understands it, please, please put me out of my misery. Actually, on

second thoughts, don’t. I’ve been to travelstore.com and, frankly, I’m

not that interested.



So what’s the answer? Well, somewhere in the excitement most of these

dotcom advertisers seem to have forgotten the basic fact that they’re

all in their launch phase. And what do you do when you’re launching?

Why, you tell people what you do. Period. Until you’ve got that message

across in word and deed (the creative execution as well as an endline),

there’s no point in doing anything else.



Dotcoms that point to high awareness figures should not be fooled.

Awareness comes with big budgets, but it doesn’t necessarily equal

knowing what a site does. And that’s where it all has to start.



dominic.mills@haynet.com.



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