Why you shouldn't advertise
on the web...and why you should.
It never -- and I mean NEVER -- fails:
I'll be sitting in a conference room with a client and -- being the totally
digital guy that I am -- get this question fired at me: "HEY! I'VE
GOT A GREAT IDEA!!! Why don't we advertise our Day Glo Electric Forks
on the INTERNET?!?"
Stellar thinking, Ned. The only problem
I have in these meetings is what exactly do these guys mean when they
say "advertise on the web?" Does that mean simply advertise
or actually market their stuff? Post to newsgroups? Place banners on strategically-
Now, don't get me wrong. I love this digital
thing as much as anyone. Maybe moreso. But before I advise anyone about
advertising or marketing on the web, I feel morally obligated to thump
them on the head -- conceptually speaking, of course -- with a few chunks
of reality that I was asked to share with you here today.
Before you even think about advertising
on the web, put some heavy brain time into whether your product or service
really belongs on the web. Figure out what you really want the advertising
to produce -- and whether it can deliver it. Finally, you need to seriously
wonder if the web is really the right medium for your product or service.
After all, Pamela Anderson posters sell far better on TV or in print than
they do on radio, because her gifts to humanity are, shall we say, largely
visual. So the first question should be, "Why should you advertise
on the web?" The second is why you shouldn't.
I generally start with the second one
first, torpedoing people's dreams with the brutal realities of how advertising
on the web works. Below are just a few guidelines that work for the marketplace
as it is right now. Undoubtedly, this will change, but in the meantime,
keep in mind the following:
1. ACCESS DOES NOT EQUAL REACH: While
the web is a many-splendored thing, the one thing is it NOT is a substitute
for a huge advertising budget. Yes, it is true that anywhere from 40 to
60 million people have access, but those numbers mean people can log on,
period. Let's face it, over 265 million Americans have access to TV, but
I'm fairly sure that the number of Ab-Flexes and juice machines sold that
way is a lot lower. So just because you can reach them doesn't mean you
can sell them.
2. CONCEPT SELLS, HIGH PRICES DON'T: Another
reason why you shouldn't advertise on the web is that high-priced items
just don't do well in a remote-access environment. Direct marketers and
catalogers have known this for years. The higher the price, the more the
consumer wants to kick the tires and smell the paint before parting with
his hard-earned cash. Conversely, the more conceptual your proposition,
the more interest you're going to generate. And the more interest you
generate, the more you're eventually going to sell.
3. SELL INFORMATION, NOT STUFF: This is
the biggest mistake that people make advertising on the web. And it's
not because of the old "people are just not comfortable with the
lack of security for transactions over the net" gig (the truth is
that consumers don't have the security problem -- it's vendors that do,
because a black-hearted few are out there are ordering crate loads of
crystal deodorant with stolen credit cards, which costs these vendors
major bucks in refunds and chargebacks). The web is a great provider of
information. That's what your consumer is looking for; that's what your
advertising should focus on. Give your prospects as much information as
they can handle, because that is the nature of the web as an advertising
medium. That's how people use it. That's how they expect you to provide
4. GATHER YOUR DATA WHILE YE MAY: Ah,
now THIS is where it's gets interesting -- and where most advertisers
fail miserably. After all the time you've spent agonizing the how's and
where's of where to place your banners and links, you eventually get to
the Valhalla of all things internet: the user click-through. Your weary
prospect has finally hit the button and arrived at your site. Sure, he
snoops around a bit here and there, but after all that work, are you really
going to let him just slip into the ether untagged? Of course not. Yet
this is the real goal of web advertising that almost everyone misses:
user data. In my book, every website designed to sell something should
entice a user to log in his accurate information -- be it e-mail or otherwise
-- if for no other reason than to follow up with him with additional materials
that nail the sale. In most cases, offering a reward for signing the Guestbook
works fine; if you're really a webhead, though, nothing works like turning
your website into an informational NORAD-type database that he'll bookmark
and use repeatedly for free.
So why should you advertise on the web?
Because it's sort of like working with dynamite: Used properly, you can
move mountains. Used improperly, you could blow your legs off.