THE INTERACTIVE QUESTIONNAIRE IN ASSOCIATION WITH ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH: Is lack of planning about to stifle the Web? Andrew Walmsley and Paul Simon have to agree to disagree

It seems to me that there is chronic short-termism in Web planning and buying - to the detriment of sales houses, publishers and agencies alike. Agencies are killing off the medium before it has had a chance to establish itself.

It seems to me that there is chronic short-termism in Web planning

and buying - to the detriment of sales houses, publishers and agencies

alike. Agencies are killing off the medium before it has had a chance to

establish itself.

Short-termism refers to the deliberate commoditisation of Web inventory,

where cost-per-thousand page views is the sole criterion for client

competitive advantage.

Too many planning and buying points are now treating the Web inventory

as if they were dealing with a mature medium such as TV, ultimately

dumbing down new media and the Web in particular.

Agencies are throwing away the chance to understand the full interactive

potential of the medium, through co-ownership, sponsorship and

e-commerce, for example. They therefore pass up the chance to provide

clients with long term competitive advantage.

What’s the result of this trend? First, the growth of Web agencies,

which are gaining accounts from ’mainstream’ agencies - reflecting

client dissatisfaction.

Second, the dearth of decent, stimulating case studies.

As a leading light in the Digital Marketing Group, Andrew, surely you

bear some responsibility for this situation?

Paul Simon

Managing director, TSMSi

Andrew Walmsley responds

It won’t come as a surprise that I disagree. CPT is never the sole

criterion for media selection - environment, position etc are just as

vital on the Web as in other media. Once these have been established,

talks about price will then take place - it’s our job to get the best

deal for clients.

Learning about the medium is an important factor in Web advertising, but

not at any price.

You cite the growth of Web agencies as evidence of client

dissatisfaction - but all the evidence shows that most clients demand

more from their agency than the ability to to say ’the answer’s a

Website’. Advertising agencies specialise in brands, and it’s that skill

which puts them at the sharp end of developments in interactive media.

There will always be niche practitioners; the responsibility I and my

fellow practitioners have is to work with our clients to develop

interactive communications based on sound principles.

I can understand if you’re upset that nobody wants to pay ratecard - but

we’re not here to develop your business. That’s your job.

Andrew Walmsley

Head of new media, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Simon responds

We’re surely here to develop a medium that benefits all of our


You talk about getting the best deal for your clients - surely the best

deal that new media offers at the moment is the ability to experiment

and learn.

It’s fair to say that those agencies most positively associated with the

Web are those that have been willing to go beyond the banner ad and

hence the CPT model. In turn, their willingness to do this has

frequently been reciprocated by Website owners’ openness in allowing a

sponsor to get involved in the editorial and design of their Web

investment - in order to add value to the viewer experience.

But these are in a minority. Perhaps the issue revolves around the

perceived status of new-media planners and buyers within agencies.

Poorly integrated with offline planning and buying, many less

experienced professionals assume the only way to progress is by

emulating Tommy the TV buyer who deals solely on rates.

Walmsley responds

No - I’m here to develop initiatives which benefit my clients. You’re

here to develop your clients’ business - the only reason you claim to be

interested in developing the medium is because your fortunes are

ultimately tied to its success! So let’s shortcut the platitudes.

We have no disagreement over the fact that a benefit of activity on the

Web is learning about interactive communication, for now and for future

media. This means we have to develop new ways of communicating our

message - integrating into content, for instance - and going way beyond

the banner ad. But at the risk of repeating myself, that doesn’t mean

we’re going to write you a blank cheque.

There are two reasons agencies push you on price. First, because you

inflate your prices, expecting this to happen. Second, because there’s

so much dodgy research around, buyers want to hedge their price by

discounting for the uncertainty. Your assertion that new media planners

and buyers have low status is brave - if I were you, I wouldn’t open my

own mail for a while.