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
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
Agencies have learnt all the three-letter acronyms and chat away about
WAP, CRM and ROI, but they are still delivering the same old
Few seem willing to embrace an integrated approach, with the result that
most online promotions for brands bear little relation to offline
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