Newsweek (International), September 15, 1997
The “gee-whiz” era of Internet and World Wide Web marketing has passed. A new way for marketers to reach clients that inspired awe just 18 months ago now has to withstand the same scrutiny borne by more traditional media (print, television and billboards). Just having a site on the World Wide Web isn’t enough. Companies advertising their wares on the Web want to know that their investment translates into profit. Web users want useful information that applies to their particular situation. With these goals in mind, marketers are developing technologies that allow companies to target the ads to specific users.
“There are two segments of companies that advertise on the Web: traditional advertisers — people really interested in brand development — and direct marketers.” says Kevin O’Connor, CEO of DoubleClick Inc., a company that manages advertising banners that appear on the most-visited Web sites. DoubleClick’s software enables each advertiser to target ads to specific demographic groups. It also follows up and counts who clicks on the banner and who didn’t.
“About 30 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States,” O’Connor says of the DoubleClick network. “The Swedish Post Office buys ads so that when Swedes come into the DoubleClick they see only Swedish ads. We do the same thing for Japanese advertisers. We just took our first Israeli and Czech ads. Czechs come in and they see ads in Czech. We had a German software company that only wanted to reach U.S. Macintosh users, so it kind of goes both ways.” Narrowing the focus to a one-to-one relationship is the grail of this kind of marketing.
The DoubleClick system works so well that O’Connor is offering direct-marketing clients a service where they pay only when the ads get people to buy the product advertised. In other words, if the surfer clicking on the direct marketer’s banner doesn’t buy the product or service, then the marketer’s costs to advertise are reduced.
Going local means more than just targeting particular ads to people in a particular city or town. The ads, whether banners or Web sites, have to resonate culturally. Agencies that specialize in interactive advertising — CD-ROMs, Web sites or banners — serve as a bridge, keeping an advertiser’s message consistent. but tailoring its execution to local tastes and values.
Andreas Panayi is opening up the Sao Paolo, Brazil, office of Poppe Tyson Interactive. The company, with outlets in Malaysia, Hong Kong and London, has learned that local presence is crucial to the success of any Internet advertising. “[Internet] usage varies within regions, it varies around the globe and it varies between neighboring countries,” he says. “In Europe, Germans are becoming sonic of the leading Internet users. On the other side of the globe, you have Japan; as soon as Japan adopts a piece of technology, they jump into it. The government of Malaysia is putting a lot of money and a lot of effort into creating these new multimedia corridors for businesses and homes that are being built with fiber-optic cables. Same thing with China.”
The value of keeping a brand profile consistent and sensitive to local preferences meant an additional challenge for the J. Walter Thompson agency’s Peggi Peacock. On her five-year tour of duty through Thailand, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, she found that local Web developers could undercut her developers’ prices. But the cheaper sites didn’t always carry the message her clients wanted to send. “I think the whole thing of globalization is going to be a lot more difficult than people think. What most of the multinationals are doing is taking over the creative concept behind the branding, the communication behind the design, helping with the design; and then the actual design is being done by a third party. That tits in with the movement of the entire industry away from being advertising agencies into being brand communications companies.”
While the Internet’s instantaneous communication may be highlighting as many differences as similarities, some things Panayi says seem to be universal truths — at least in the marketing business: “We held a global round table not too long ago in New York where we invited clients and prospects to just sit down and talk. These were the things that came out: the need for global brand management but with a sensitivity to the local and regional market: the need for finding ways to bring verifiable return-on-investment numbers to the table and finding ways to reach the customers with relationship marketing.”