So, Bestie, where did it all go wrong?

So, Bestie, where did it all go wrong?

Richard Townsend: a director at MediaVest

The year is 1973 and a room service waiter is standing outside the door of a Spanish hotel room.

He is delivering some Champagne, a selection of caviar and the English papers to the room of the most famous footballer in the world - George Best. The lead story is about a recent dive in form of the great man and the headline reads "George Best - where did it all go wrong?"

The waiter opens the door to the room to see George Best lying on the bed with his current girlfriend, who resembles the Greek goddess Venus and just happens to be the current Miss World. The bed is king-size and completely covered in $100 bills, the result of a jaunt to the hotel casino where he has managed to win in excess of $50,000.

Unsurprisingly, Georgie boy is sipping on a glass of the hotel's finest Champagne and another dozen bottles are sitting next to the bed, while his girlfriend, dressed in a bikini, is draped across him. The waiter looks at the headline and back at George and they both smile - or so the story goes.

The obvious moral of this story is "things aren't always as bad as they seem". The interactive advertising industry has had more than its fair share of bad press over the past six months and it is fair to say that it has deserved most of it. Hundreds of sites have closed, the guys that wanted to cash in have cashed out, sales departments have disbanded and, most regrettably, a huge number of redundancies have been made by either poorly run companies or through impossible business models.

The strange thing is that a lot of the senior interactive media people I have talked to recently have been waiting for this to happen. Why? Because we now have a smaller, more defined, industry in much better shape. Suddenly we are talking to sharper, more responsive sales people who understand their products better. The thousands of useless sites that used to call with "unmissable" offers to advertise on "" have disappeared, allowing us to spend more time investigating the real opportunities. The sites which survive offer innovative ideas, which, in many cases, are unique to the internet in their delivery.

The first six months of this year have probably been the most competitive the industry has seen, and the result has been a more streamlined and efficient market that is both cost competitive internally but also, in some cases, offers genuine media alternatives. Technological advancement in both software and hardware are encouraging and this year we have seen some of the most impressive online events in the history of the medium.

The real benefit of the internet as an advertising vehicle has always been that it can create impact, dialogue and ultimately deliver interest, all in the most accountable way.

This has only just started to look possible, and, although it is not as much fun as sitting on a bed with Miss World, it is still a much better position to be in than people would have you believe.

Richard Townsend is a director of MediaVest IP