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November 6, 2000-- Newsletter #105
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Goodies to Go (tm)
November 6, 2000--Newsletter #105
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
Did you hear...
The music site Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) announced the results of its $10,000 hacker invitational. SDMI says that hackers went two for five, successfully attacking two of the five elements that the organization requested hackers attack. Of course, the results are in dispute (as many results seem to be lately). Researchers at Rice and Princeton University claim they penetrated four of the five targets. Either way, SDMI may be claiming victory on the surface, but this must have scared the living heck out of them.
Want to get scanned? C'mon! It'll be fun! Image Twin Inc., out of North Carolina, has created a system that will bathe your body in white light for 12 seconds, making a perfect "sculpture" of your person. You could then buy clothes online that would definitely fit, because the computer would use the body scan (rather than your own decision to attempt to fit into a 36 in. waist when you've been a 40 in since you turned 35). The company hopes to set up fifty of these scanning kiosks in malls around the country by the end of 2001.
Now onto today's topic...
Well, the slew of articles pushing e-commerce for the holidays have begun. My latest issue of Yahoo! Internet Life has a big feature comparing online stores. And the online news sites are running the obligatory "why-online-shopping-is-safe" stories.
I'm going to take a different bent.
This semester, I'm holding a class on commercial copywriting. I'm teaching students how to write commercials. Two days ago, I gave them their final commercial assignment of the semester. I make a point of getting the last assignment in early so there's a week of downtime before the final.
The assignment was to write a television commercial for the site MySimon. The commercial would run during prime time, and would be used to get people to come to MySimon to do their online shopping this year.
On the surface, it would seem a fairly easy commercial to write. Come to MySimon, search for the best price, and when you find it, buy it. We'll ship it right to your door.
Well...maybe. There's an age-old question in the world of advertising: Can one medium sell itself successfully on another? We all know that newspaper advertising can aid sales at a clothing store, or that TV advertising helps sell hamburgers at Burger King. That makes fairly good sense. However, can a radio station really increase its listenership by advertising on TV? Can a TV station up its viewership by advertising in the newspaper? Can a newspaper increase its readership by advertising on radio?
Finally, and this is the big question: Can an Internet site attract new users by advertising on television?
Before you answer with a resounding "Yes," let's look at some facts.
The last Super Bowl gathered 130 million people in front of their TV sets, and numerous dot-coms blew the bank account with television ads. Many ran with little or no success. Sorry to say, the ads were often so good they ran into a bad case of commercialitis.
"Commercialitis" is a nasty problem in the ad world whereby a commercial is so entertaining that people remember the commercial but not the product, or even if they remember the product, they don't buy it. According the Entertainment Weekly, one of the best cases of commercialitis was the famous Wendy's "Where's the Beef" campaign. The whole world was quoting Clara Peller, but no one went out to buy more hamburgers.
The dot-com commercials were very popular, but very few showed any marked increase in users after the game.
Here's a for-instance. We all remember that fantastic sock puppet dog from...uhhh...ummmm...that online store...oh yeah! Pets.com.
In case you didn't know, Pets.com closed its doors effective November 9, 2000.
The only real standout from the Super Bowl ads was the Monster.com "When I Grow Up" ad where that one kid delivers the line, "When I grow up, I want to be forced into early retirement."
I have read the reason that commercial stood out and actually had some success in getting people to the site, was that it wasn't a one-time deal; it continued to run well after the Super Bowl. A company named Angeltips.com, a site dedicated to connecting investors with entrepreneurs, made the decision to drop their advertising during the last Super Bowl and go with a longer run of commercials over the beginning of 2000. They believed that the one-time shot wasn't enough.
A short search of the Web can turn up a slew of articles that discuss why many dot-coms are staying away from TV and are putting their money into more and more banner ads. The reason? In studies, more people can recall a specific banner ad than can recall a specific television ad.
OK, people can recall it. Do they act on it?
After I went on and on, as professors often do, regarding these issues, one student mentioned that I was forgetting one of the basic concerns of buying advertising space: the target audience.
Did the people watching the commercials during the Super Bowl really want what was being sold? Maybe Monster.com just hit a large pool of people who were ready to look for another job, and Wendy's didn't hit enough hungry people.
Setting aside the fact that one of advertising's goals is to help to create a target audience, OK, let's run with that.
This year, almost 80% of those who use the Web will make a purchase online. The majority of those buying online, 60%, will be men. Most will be either middle class or upper-middle class. If projections are correct, people will spend almost four times as much money this year as they did last year online. The big sellers will be books, software, and music, in that order.
It looks to me like the audience is primed and ready to enter that credit card number.
With all that in mind, I ask my original question: Can a Web site substantially increase its user traffic through television advertising? eBay and Amazon.com are ready to go with huge ad campaigns. Will it help?
It is my opinion it'll help only with brand loyalty and brand-name recall. When I'm watching TV, I'm not surfing. Most people will not get up from their chair, turn off the TV, and go to the Web just because they saw a commercial for a site.
If a Web site purchases television ads this year, I believe the best they can expect is to reinforce their brand in the minds of those who already shop online. Maybe they'll get a few extra people showing up, but I don't think they'll get many. Those who were already considering coming to the site will probably be more likely to come if they see a lot of advertising for it.
Is that enough? Is it worth the money? It may be. Keeping your site in front of potential Web shoppers is important for brand retention. When's the last time you saw a commercial for toothpaste, got up, went out, and bought toothpaste? In fact, when's the last time you saw a commercial and immediately acted upon it? It's probably happened, but not too often. What advertisers want is to set their product firmly in your mind so that when the time comes for you to buy toothpaste, you will remember their product.
The big e-commerce sites will advertise because they can, and they will succeed because they are keeping their name in front of the target audience that will use the Web this holiday season.
Will it bring in brand new people? Maybe, but a very small percentage. That's my guess.
Don't tell my class, OK?
That's that. . Happ-E Holidays.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And remember: Was Santa always dressed in red and white? Nope. Do you know who put him in those colors? Coke. The Santa we all think of these days was an advertising piece for a soft drink that wanted to get their brand colors out there in a subliminal way.
Ho. Ho. Ho.