A New Chapter in a Familiar Story

Listening to leading advertising executives wax about the
state of digital marketing and you’re left with the feeling of an industry that
hasn’t gotten comfortable in its own skin yet.

At the Always On conference in New York, attendees from ad
agencies, Web companies, ad network descended on the Mandarin Oriental in
Columbus Circle to discuss all things new media.

Participants in one panel tackled the subject of
monetization — a question at the top of the agenda of every advertiser and
content publisher trying to find their niche on the Web.

Well, like most panels where top-level executives gather to
discuss top-level issues, the panel titled “When Will Online Advertising
Dollars Catch up with Online Viewership?” raised more questions than it

“We live in impatient times, but we’re actually moving
very fast,” said Bruce Nelson, Vice Chairman of Omnicom, one of the
world’s largest advertising holding companies.

Penry Price, Google’s Vice President of Advertising Sales,
suggested that the blusterous tide that carried in the first wave of Internet
high-flyers 10 odd years ago set expectations too high, that a transformative
medium like the Web needs time to mature.

Nelson reminded the audience that ad spending on the Web is
increasing at twice the rate of the previous newcomer to the media mix: cable
television. And cable didn’t require advertisers to reinvent the playbook — Madison Avenue creatives been making TV spots for decades.

But, step back 30 years earlier, and broadcast TV was the new
kid on the block scrapping to earn respect from advertisers, Bob Jeffrey
reminded us. Jeffrey is the chairman and CEO of JWT, another global advertising
powerhouse, and he knows his history.

“A lot of creatives weren’t interested in television in
the early 50’s,” he said. “A double-page spread in Life
magazine was considered a career maker.”

Creatives are still learning how to create and package their
messages online. Media buyers are still figuring out the best pricing
structures, and advertisers are still grappling with the ROI matrix.

The takeaway message: it’s an evolutionary process. Both
Jeffrey and Nelson said that they no longer encountered any resistance from
their clients in convincing them to integrate digital into their media mix.

Price demurred when asked about Google’s designs on horning
in on the agency’s business: “We don’t want to purchase any agencies —
that’s not a margin business we want to get into.” (Sprinkles of
laughter throughout the crowd.

“We do want to work with agencies and work with
creatives,” he said, emphasizing that Google’s core competencies do not
include storytelling ��� the pap of the agencies’ output. What Google brings to
the table is scale, reach and solutions to technical problems, which could make
it a very powerful ally for the agencies.

But when it comes to advertising, Price admits that even
Google doesn’t have a crystal ball:

“The Internet and digital media is about the most blank canvas that we have.”

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