What's It Going to Take?

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OK, so online ad spending was only $336 million in 1997 because of discounting and bartering, reports a new study by Burst Media LLC (see story, page 1). It's not yet the $1-billion industry others say it is. But, remember, the Web is in its infancy. In just four years, Forrester Research says online ad dollars will grow to $8 billion, still a pittance, but phenomenal growth just the same.

So what needs to happen to get from here to there? DMers need to commit, that's what. The Web is a brand new medium just waiting to be used -- and that mouse pointer means it's pure DM. So far, too many online advertisers are missing a DM fundamental: They fail to include a call for action in their banners. Or after a half-hearted "Click here," they don't ask for the order.

No one understands better than direct marketers what it takes to turn lookers into buyers. We need to apply those principles we use every day in our mail pieces, our catalogs and on our Web sites to banner ads. And there's no reason to just buy banner ads on the top nine Web sites, which account for 59 percent of all ad dollars spent online, one research firm says. Take a look at www.hot100.com and its list of the 100 most-visited sites each week. It lists a host of big names after the top 20 spots: Travelocity at 52; the Weather Channel at 57; the Washington Post at 92. These sites draw thousands of viewers every day -- and their eyeballs can be had at bargain-basement prices.

In fact, you'd foolish to pay full price to advertise on the Web right now. Don't buy your ads upfront, where you're paying $20-$25/CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions). Do it in the real-time market for $5. (For a full explanation, check out this week's Web Marketing contributed piece by Larry Braitman on page 24). There's plenty of ad space that goes unsold on the Web, up to 50 percent, researchers say.

Many argue that direct marketers won't jump on the bandwagon until the Web starts showing results. It may turn out, however, that the Web will fail to show results until direct marketers get in there and show them how it's done.

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