Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Double Click or Double Talk?

Anybody out there trying to generate direct sales through their web site? You are? Then no doubt you've heard the about fourteen zillion methods and madness from everyone and their mother about how their service can generate more revenue for you than anyone else's. The question is, how many of those do you believe?

Okay, those of you who know me also know that I don't believe anyone about anything. At my wedding, when my bride said, "I do", I demanded quantifiable proof. So you know that when someone comes out with the absolutely best, guaranted web advertising tool ever devised by mortal man, we'd do well to take the announcement with a boulder of salt.

Look I could be wrong here, but the minute I read press releases like the one posted on DoubleClick's home page, I get all itchy. I can't help it. I'm an ad guy. I write the kind of stuff that makes things sound better than they really are, so I recognize it when someone else tries to. For example:

DoubleClick Direct answers the needs of direct marketers looking to reach Internet users on a cost per action (CPA) pricing model. Four options are provided --cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-lead (CAL), cost-per-sale (CPS), cost-per-download (CPD). Run rates, unaffected by CPM, are uncapped, limited only by the advertiser's budget for completed transactions. DoubleClick Direct is thus a no-risk opportunity for advertisers who pay only on user response.

No risk, eh? Hmmm. Usually when I hear a proposition like that, my mind conjures up images of smoky boardroom meetings, in which a panicky sales/marketing team starts blue-skying various dump-schemes for their backlog of inventory. Of course, this may not be the case with DoubleClick. Business may be fantastic over there. But if business really were humming, why resort to a pay-as-they-download gambit? Is business so good that the CEO has decided, "Well, that's about as much money as I want to make efficiently -- anyone got any ideas of how we can make less?"

And while we're on the topic of unbelievable stuff, does anyone really believe this:

Ronny Yakov, president of ColorBank/ShopFast added, "We're thrilled to join with DoubleClick in developing this exciting new industry and to help fulfill the promise of electronic commerce and the Internet."

Thrilled? THRILLED? Let me tell you this: "thrilled" is when you wake up in the morning to find Elle MacPherson up on one elbow purring, "What do you like for breakfast, tiger?" And while Ronny may indeed be pleased with his association, you've got to ask two questions about the way in which DoubleClick has allowed this press release to escape from its pen. First, how can a seemingly professional organization allow such an amateurish communique to slip out, undermining whatever credibility it previously worked so hard to achieve? But more importantly, why wouldn't DoubleClick take a smarter route to promote its new service?

Why wouldn't they launch the program as a beta and then -- with quantifiable results in hand -- publish the new program's success rate? Seems to me that more people would want to buy a parachute AFTER they've seen proof that it actually works.

Oh, and there's other stuff that gives me serious pause before I'd chunk down my fate on this pay-as-you-go plan. For example, before you even start, you have to be armed to the teeth with all kinds of extra creative, just in case the first five to five hundred thousand zillion banners don't work. And you can bet that DoubleClick will hedge its losses, too, with clauses that allow them a quick exit if your banners sit there like a lox. Okay, so that's just good business -- but is that good marketing? Finally, I can't help but wonder who gets the really tasty site locations -- clients who pay up front or those who pay when and if their stuff works? I mean, in your business, who do you treat better, the guys who walk in the door with cash in their hand or the guys who tell you they'll pay you if your stuff works?

Hey, this new service of theirs might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I hope for their sake it is and DoubleClick makes tons of dough working it. At least then they could afford to hire a better copywriter.

©1997, Rob Frankel

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