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
Short-termism refers to the deliberate commoditisation of Web inventory,
where cost-per-thousand page views is the sole criterion for client
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
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?
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.
Head of new media, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
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
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.
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.