Bad News for the Valley and Media (Ok, Worse News)
Henry Blodget has a frightening-- but I think right on-- post about display advertising online. His take: Wake up! It's going down. Why? The economy, yes. But more important, I don't think display advertising has yet managed to make itself an indispensable part of the ad mix the way paid search has.
There's a debate subtly raging about whether we've really nailed display advertising on the Web to date. Some people, Henry included, say "Duh, it works." But "it works" isn't the same thing as having nailed a new and unique method of advertising consummate with the uniqueness of content and audience on the Web. Online should be something different, the same way print publications should be doing more than just putting the same words on a digital page. Floating ads? Pop-up? Pop-unders? Roll overs? Isn't it all just a quick gimmick until we find ways to block it? I can't remember a time I clicked on a banner ad and those automatically loading video and audio ads just enrage me to the point I don't have a positive brand-association.
Anecdotally, I keep hearing about no-brainer opportunities for brand advertising online to unique, highly desirable, mass demographics that are not selling. Not even at comparatively cheap rates! (It's all been off the record, so I can't cite examples. It's off the record for obvious reasons as blabbing about it doesn't exactly help the selling process.) This says one of three things to me:
- There is a lack of qualified ad sales people working in the online space
- Advertisers don't yet value this market
- To quote LOLcats: UR DOING IT WRONG INTERNETZ!
Yes, I realize display advertising is a multi-billion industry and it's sustained sites like Yahoo-- my part-time employer-- not to mention offered a new revenue stream for dying print media (albeit an apparently anemic one). But if you consider the demographics and time spent on a lot of these sites there's clearly money being left on the table.
It's not too crazy to draw an analogy to Facebook's situation. (Bear with me, here.) Facebook is generating hundreds of millions in revenue this year. Clearly Facebook has ad inventory people want. But Facebook considers itself in the first inning of figuring out a must-have revenue answer for its unique inventory.
In short, for years now proponents of display advertising have been saying-- and blindly believing-- it's all growth until the percentage of time spent online catches up to the percentage of the ad budget spent online. Maybe we need to assume there's a deeper problem and the hungry company that wants to survive needs to work harder to fix it.
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