@d:tech West, the First Digital Marketing Conference and Expo LA, 1998

by Elaine Morris Palmer

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — JANUARY 15, 1998 — @d:tech West, the first digital marketing conference and expo dedicated to examining the convergence of entertainment with digital marketing, advertising and e-commerce, concluded its Los Angeles debut January 12 through 14 with approximately 2,000 attendees over the three day event.

I’ll begin with Bob Bejan’s (MSN) concluding remarks stressing access versus utility on the net now. “This is a reach business until it isn’t”, he said. By that he means capturing eyeballs is the name of the game. For him, it is, but he runs a network. For the rest of us, it’s not about hits, it’s about the right *kind* of hits.

What’s the next big thing according to Bob? “Great creative that crosses all media.”

“Well”, you might say, “we’ve heard that since jungle drums were invented” but I hasten to add, we’ve re-defined those simple terms today in this new world. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Bob describes this sweeping statement in more detail: “Advertising patrons are in the driver’s seat”. What does that mean, anyway?  The “Internet-focused idea driven by a commitment in all media” is Bejan’s formula de jour.

Bejan adds 5 key points to this heading:

• Coordinate with the web’s editorial calendar.

• Ride on top of net lifestyle.

• Leverage the collaborative nature of the web.

• Qualify your audience.

• Build a relationship that’s “resentment free”. (I’m not sure what he is referring to on this one).

In my opinion, the web moves too fast to really effectively analyze case studies and calculate your next move. The turn-around time in advertising, no matter how fast now, is not fast enough to turn production of ads today into effective messages on the net tomorrow .

That means a lot of the reach theories are out of date before they hit the white board.

A lot of the success stories on the web are lead by mavericks and other assorted risk takers operating on instinct.  During @d:tech, I had the chance to hear a few of their stories.

During a seminar called “Why Investors are Switching to the Net”, a panel of net trading experts from Motley Fool, PC Financial and Forbes discussed the motivating factors of investing online — many of which were applicable to generating interest in the web in general.

Web trading is one the web’s biggest  success stories.  Investing has been *a perfect alignment of an audience and a medium*. It is an inherently gratifying experience for its players. Why? The audience: “men with money and modems”. The idea: a 6 1/2 hour game 5 days a week, tune in anytime, the score always changes and it’s your own money is at risk! It’s the perfect activity to satisfy almost every masculine human interest. It turns out, saving commissions is the lesser attribute of the experience.

Hold that thought!

Surf down the web a ways and log onto the iVillage site. Here, at a site aimed at a predominantly female audience, an emotionally rich environment (like tv where we are susceptible to commercials!) is a demographically focused, small, sought after site where the hosts have:

1) chosen an audience,

2) understand it, and

3) serve it.

Key point: This site helps women manage their lives in the amount of time they have!

Here, advertisers *sponsor* the sight by:

* joining conversations, not interrupting them

* talking with the audience, not at it

* honoring clear boundaries

* dealing with things that matter deeply

* delivering genuine value

Continuing down the web,  we find the community of interest sites like Tripod, Garden.com,vand GeoCities. The demographics of these three sites range from 12-34 year olds, mostly women and 41 separate special interest communities respectively.

What all these sites have in common is that they are member-driven. Here lies the satisfactionof interacting with others. The site editors have all concluded that creating content is simply too expensive. The money doesn’t go into the growth of the programming. Instead it supports the community growth of user-created content. The upside for the marketer is *targeting*.

The principals at play are:

1) give them a reason to be there.

2) give them something to care about.

3) feed them (nurture and encourage the early participants, deploy standards

and clear the dead wood.)

Here, the advertiser environment is one of mixed models: an integration of products and services on the web, in the retail store, in catalogs, even on the telephone.  Here, advertising and commerce intersect in all media. Whether authors and experts offer perspectives and feedback, the membership collaborates on the planning of a garden complete with drag & drop plants, or special interests prompt transactional commerce,this is a multiple revenue resource.

And advertisers *know* what their audience is buying.

An important point here also is the web actually closes the loop between the customer and source. From first view to back end fulfillment, it’s the advertiser’s job to meet the customer’s expectations! *All successful* transactional sites have fully developed the fulfillment architecture supporting the customer experience.

Lastly, creative influence on the web is not just about design and the use of the hottest technological innovations. How many web sites and interactive ads have actually succeeded in killing the advertiser’s hard-earned brand identity? The web presence doesn’t seem to coordinate with the rest of the client’s product or brand image in the world. The days of the self-propelled software jockey are over. And, wake up, advertiser! The banner ad is a *tv-based* solution!  Somewhere in between technology for technology’s sake and bombarding us with annoying messages we don’t care about is the answer as illustrated in some of these other examples of successful client participation.

Bank of America has set up an extended opportunity with the customer. With a little strategic planning upfront, the technology conforms to the brand creating a conversational rather than monolithic relationship with the consumer. B of A’s site ties in with it’s TV campaign.  They have found the way the company interacts with the customer and the advertising becomes part of a real life experience —  “Did you get married today?”, “Did you move today?” etc.

In Summary:

*In the future we will see the web *contextualize* advertising into the existing medium  so it becomes useful or helpful.

*If brand attributes don’t match the web, maybe they shouldn’t be there.

*Taking the long view means taking into account both direct revenues and driving other

business. This calls for a refinement of web advertiser techniques.

Focus groups tell us that the core issues of the next generation are:

  • problem solving
  • real issues
  • hand-picked “neighbors’ for each of the issues in our lives
  • quick entry into the *right* conversation
  • managing their lives in the amount of time they have (after all, this is a “time shifting” medium – the customer can learn from or buy from you anytime of the day or night.)

*User-created content, participation, dialogue, and time-driven utility are the key factors forany advertiser to hone his message and deliver it to us. *The web dynamics insist that the consumer invest in your commerce-driven site when hevisits it. That means you have one shot to explain your product and service commitment and then to follow it up with “over the top” service.  Building a relationship with the visitor meansbdeveloping a communication strategy. If you lose someone, you’ve lost them for at least 12 months!*How do we strategize  to capture the mid to late adopter – the true gold mine of the web? Some would stress content + utility across multiple interfaces or integrating content into powerful utilities that *aren’t* intimidating.

contact Elaine @ elaine@mavenmediany.com