OPINION: ANDREWS ON ... DOTCOM CYNICISM

Right now there is a view among some of the more savvy City boys that floating dotcom shares on AIM is a licence to print money. By the time anyone realises that the dotcom consists of one man and a dog-eared copy of Wired, the theory goes, the advisors will have banked their fees, the original investors will have sold their shares at a huge premium and the only people to squeal will be us mugs, the punters.

Right now there is a view among some of the more savvy City boys

that floating dotcom shares on AIM is a licence to print money. By the

time anyone realises that the dotcom consists of one man and a dog-eared

copy of Wired, the theory goes, the advisors will have banked their

fees, the original investors will have sold their shares at a huge

premium and the only people to squeal will be us mugs, the punters.



Unfortunately, there seems to be a similar level of cynicism among parts

of the advertising industry. Much of the current advertising for dotcoms

seems to be designed to spend the client’s money as quickly as possible,

the basic approach being to bang out a TV ad announcing the new site and

to buy as many ratings as possible.



Few ads seem to be about building a brand and even fewer seem to have an

idea. After the US e-tailer, Outpost.com, received so much press for its

gerbil and tattooed children ads last year, the name of the game has

been awareness.



But, despite the accolades, the Outpost campaign was soon dropped, with

the CEO saying: ’Our brand has to stand for something and it can’t stand

for gerbils.’



Agencies have learnt all the three-letter acronyms and chat away about

WAP, CRM and ROI, but they are still delivering the same old

solutions.



Few seem willing to embrace an integrated approach, with the result that

most online promotions for brands bear little relation to offline

ones.



Yet this sector is pure, unadulterated direct response. Everything

should be geared around delivering a visitor to the site - awareness is

meaningless if they haven’t taken the time to visit the site. Every

dotcom business plan revolves around a customer acquisition cost and

that must drive the marketing. E-businesses can measure site traffic

minute by minute and track the actions of each user - it is not that

hard to find ways of linking the traffic to the ads.



So here we have an industry that can measure the effectiveness of

advertising incredibly accurately. But where is the accountability? Why

don’t we hear about the success stories? Are there any?



I would like to think that there are few agencies so cynical as to just

take the money and run the ads - I know that some of the clients at

dotcoms are equally culpable. (There is a story in the US about the

dotcom dance - raise as much money as you can, spend it as fast as you

can, then repeat steps one and two as many times as you can get away

with it.) In the US many of the smarter venture capitalists are building

alliances with agencies to ensure their money is spent effectively. I

suspect we will start to see that happening here before too long.



But here is a perfect chance to demonstrate to a business world obsessed

with everything dotcom that advertising can have a tangible and

measurable impact on creating businesses. A chance to stand up to the

McKinseys and show what effect our thinking can have on the bottom line.

Are we going to waste that chance? Or are there real success stories out

there?