Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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How Internet Advertising Doesn't Work.

The most popular question we get from clients -- after "It costs HOW MUCH?" -- is this one: "Does advertising really pay out on the internet?"

The answer, very often, is yes. Because most times, the people who offer up the answer are the very same people who take money for advertising on the net. What would you expect them to say?

The simple truth is that advertising does work, but not the way you -- or they -- think it should. Too often, the wrong people use the wrong data to make the wrong decisions. The result is that for most people, advertising on the internet won't work.

Look, there are a lot of myths running rampant on the internet. one of the biggest is that you can port traditional media strategies from non-line to on-line environments. Wrong. The market strategies employed by radio and television have little in common with effective internet strategies. And the worst example of that is banner ads.

Banner ads are those intrusive rectangles you find at the top of a web page. Sometimes they move or blink a message hawking you to click them immediately. If the sucker actually does click,he's transported to the advertiser's site. This is called a"clickthrough".

First, let me tell you why everyone sells banners: because suckers BUY them.

Media people sell banners because the concept is an easy one to sell. Period. Never mind that they're horribly expensive and almost never successful. The fact is that banner advertising is an easy concept for unsophisticated buyers to grasp. It's a traditional media model. And people too shy to admit their ignorance would rather sign off and "look cool" than admit they're throwing money down the toilet.

Now, here are more reasons why banner ads don't work

First, there's no way you can actually guarantee impressions. Although it's too complicated to discuss here, let me assure you that almost all banner ad programs "rotate" your banner with other victims'. So while your ad may appear to one person on a site, another person might log on to the exact same site and never see your banner at all. Yet chances are you're buying placement based on the TOTAL number of estimated viewers.

Second, who really knows what the total number of viewers really is? Are they counting hits? Page views? User sessions? Lots of snake oil salesmen brag about millions of hits, but a "hit" is technically one file loaded on to one page. So if one person logs on to my page and my page has half a million graphic files on it, that page will log 500,001 hits from just one user.

It all boils down to one fatal flaw: the internet provides access to a large number of people. But large numbers alone do nothing for your business. Quailified traffic does. I mean, who cares if a half million car buyers walk through your showroom, if you're selling potted plants?

Almost all banners all sold on the basis of volume, in an effort to push down their "cost per thousand" (CPM). But in my book,a million visitors with no sales is expensive, no matter how little you pay.

Want more? Okay, consider this:

The only place you can buy banners is on site that are in the business of selling banner space. By and large, these are not quality sites that attract quality viewers. And the reason is simple: by featuring banners, a site is actually inviting a viewer to LEAVE the site by clicking on the banner. Who in their right mind is going to invite someone to leave their place of business?

Of course, I could go on, but the editors around here crack a pretty mean whip when it comes to word count. The important thing to remember is that the net is about quality, not quantity. It's a minefield, ripe with opportunity if you know your way around.

But one wrong step can blow the legs off any media planner foolish enough to think it's just a walk in the park.

Rob Frankel

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