Using Webcasts as Marketing Tools

When market collapses are happening in Internet time and layoff is part of every second or third headline, it is hard to remember that there is still a landscape of opportunity ahead of us on the Web.

While it is true that some of the most noticeable streaming in the media business in recent months has been the steady exodus of laid-off workers, it is equally true that reports of the death of advertising on the Net have been greatly exaggerated.

For all its difficulties, the Net and its ability to deliver video streams continue to hold tremendous potential for marketers looking to build on an existing television presence.

The trick is not to get caught in the trap of looking at the Internet as something completely different, and to understand how new media provide new opportunities for the extension of existing media.

Recent data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Washington, offer clues to just how extensive the Internet audience is becoming. The number of American adults with Internet access grew by 16 percent during the last six months of 2000, increasing the total population with Internet access to more than 104 million adults.

Fifty-six percent of American adults now have Internet access, and 58 million sign on to the Net every day.

Lee Rainie, director of the project, said, “There has been so much attention focused on the woes of dot-com firms in recent months that many might have lost sight of the fact that the appeal of getting access to the Internet is still very strong.”

It is hard to disagree, especially when supporting data indicate that 5 million homes now have access to the broadband delivery that lowers yet another barrier to the delivery of video via the Net. eMarketer, New York, estimates that by 2002, 35 percent of homes will have access to the Internet via cable modem, DSL or satellite/wireless delivery.

Webcasts hold tremendous potential for the migration of existing video.

With more people spending some portion of their media time on the Internet – and with the acceleration of cable modem, DSL and wireless broadband connections – it is important that streaming media be incorporated into marketing plans in order to reach the maximum audience.

In its formative days, the Web spawned an advertising culture of buttons and banners, simple links that encouraged click-through over even the slowest dial-up connections. Today, broadband connections and fast dial-up access, combined with high-performance processing capabilities, allow marketers – particularly those with an existing video strategy – to tell their story more effectively.

The following are dos and don’ts for those considering a Webmercial presence:

• Recognize the Web’s potential for brand extension. Recent research confirms an 18 percent growth in the online population in less than a year, with Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA, noting that the Web accounts for 7 percent to 10 percent of the total time people spend exposed to media.

• Don’t be afraid to take advantage of existing production. Streaming Webmercials offer a simple and relatively inexpensive way for marketers to amortize production costs over several media.

• Ensure quality tracking of clearly identified prospects. No matter how much disagreement there is on the future of the Internet, there is no argument over the Web’s role as the ultimate direct response mechanism. Only the Internet and its cousin-in-waiting, interactive television, offer marketers and the media the ability to track purchasers and prospects, and to tailor program and streaming Webmercial delivery for each one. Make sure your partners can provide quality data on a timely basis.

• Don’t think of the Web in linear terms. On the Internet, prime time is no longer a narrow window when most viewers are tuned in. Prime time has been redefined on a user-by-user basis. The Internet’s nonlinear structure has created the advertising community’s first always-on definition of prime-time inventory.

• Create synergies between your on-air and online presences. Use your video production to direct users to your online spot where you can augment video with additional information and promotions.

• Don’t forget the boogeymen on the linear video horizon. Personal video recorders threaten to minimize the effect of traditional television advertising in the future. Webmercials can be integrated more easily into the editorial content of sites, ensuring that your message gets to the target audience so it can take immediate action.

For those whose roots are in cable television, the similarities are striking.

Like Internet video, cable programming was a learning experience when it was in its formative years. It was a new concept to buy and measure and sometimes difficult to understand.

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