Making Online Matter

Speaking on a panel addressing online advertising’s future, Fallon Worldwide’s creative director, Kevin Flatt, summed up the challenge facing the industry: “In general, you’re the last five minutes of a presentation,” he said. “You’re being told not to take too long.”

Flatt said the key to unlocking interactive advertising’s potential is for it to become integrated into the presentation, since it should be an integral part of an overall advertising plan — not an afterthought.

In his opening remarks at Thursday’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Leadership Forum, The Wall Street Journal Online’s publisher, Neil Budde, drove home the same point, saying integrating online advertising with so-called traditional media, such as TV and print, was the industry’s biggest future challenge.

“Integrating online media and interactive marketing with other media and other channels is imperative to reaching the full potential of this medium,” he said. “Taking full advantage of the targeting capabilities of online media as well as its unique contextual opportunities will help us all reach the right audience with the right message.”

The IAB pointed to its cross-media optimization study as an example of how integration can work for brands. At the IAB’s annual meeting last month, the group touted research showing McDonald’s had increased brand perception for a new sandwich in a key demographic through an increase of online advertising in an overall marketing campaign.

“We’re still in a state where this is an evolving medium,” Budde said. “We all need to put some resources behind finding what does work and what doesn’t work, and then put resources behind what works.”

Most agreed that the campaign devised by Flatt worked well. Flatt said the key to the innovative concept, which had BMW sponsor a series of short films that revolved around its automobile, was that the medium came last, not first. Working from the goal — for BMW to reach the customers it needed to reach — Flatt said the idea for the strong online component arose after Fallon realized it couldn’t reach BMW’s customers through TV and print. Instead, the agency found that BMW’s customers were online, willing to consume entertaining content.

“Ultimately, a good understanding of your customer or your client’s business can lead you to a new approach or differing way of connecting with them,” Flatt said.

In the end, Flatt warned the online component is only be as good as the parts around it. If clicking through a banner ad brings a customer to a confusing site, the connection with him is ruined.

“There’s a huge opportunity for good creativity,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.”

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