Home SiteCynic Online Advertising Year in Review 2003

Online Advertising Year in Review 2003

by Dave Chase

It wouldn’t be a new year without handing out some unofficial awards for 2003.

“You can observe a lot by watching.” Yogi Berra

The start of a new year is a good time to take heed of the pivotal events that shaped the preceding 12 months. Let’s recap the big hits and misses of online advertising in 2003. Who would have thought at the start of the year that many in the industry would think of Google as the company that would have the greatest impact in 2003, or that perennial money-loser MSN would be highly profitable? The “awards committee” consisted of many of the thought leaders from a cross-section of the industry including leading consultants, publishers, technology companies, industry associations and researchers.

The Rainbow Award: Online ad revenue

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Dolly Parton

Online ad revenue has seen lots of rain over the last few years. In 2003, the “rainbow” finally emerged. The Interactive Ad Bureau (IAB) and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) announced that Internet advertising totaled an estimated $1.745 billion in the third quarter of 2003, the highest total revenues reported since Q3 2001.

The Santana Supernatural Award: Search

Like the “overnight” success of a rocker who’d been around for 30+ years, Search became the “overnight” success of 2003. Search drove much of the revenue increases for companies like Yahoo! and Microsoft and the online ad industry as a whole.

The Onion Award: Reporting and Measurement

Like an onion that can be pungent or a great addition to a recipe, Reporting and Measurement has been a case of “best of times and worst of times”. It’s been frustrating to agencies that the publishers still haven’t agreed on a bulletproof standard. The publishers have found that every time they think they have the challenge solved, there’s another layer that needs to be peeled away. On the other hand, there are bright lights that highlight the strength of the online medium. For example, users of CNET’s GameSpot Trax and Yahoo!’s Buzz Index have found these tools can be used as a dynamic research lab.  Their reports can provide marketers with insights into what people want and how they respond to specific products and marketing campaigns.

The Loya Jirga Award: IAB Universal Ad Package (UAP)

A year ago, networks like AOL and MSN literally had hundreds of ad sizes and the industry as a whole had thousands of sizes. This all created additional cost and time to run a multi-site campaign. The leaders in the industry finally laid down their swords to truly solve an issue nagging the industry. Today, all mainstream sites have adopted the UAP, dramatically reducing the cost of creating online creative.

[For those who aren’t Afghanistan historians, here’s an explanation of a Loya Jirga:]

The Times Square Clean-Up Award: UAP adoptees

The corollary for many of the sites/networks adopting the UAP standard was they used it as an excuse to clean up their ad environments. They have voluntarily reduced the clutter of too many ads per page and some have developed creative acceptance standards to eliminate deceptive and objectionable ads.

The Amelia Earhart Award: 18-34 year old males, Teens & Business Decision Makers

Highlighted by the finger-pointing between Nielsen and TV networks, these 3 audiences have “disappeared” from TV to make online their predominant media consumption choice.

The Ahhhnold High Impact Award: Ford F-150 campaign

This campaign literally shook MSN’s homepage. As Rex Briggs of Marketing Evolution observed, “With their simultaneous purchase on 9/4 of MSN, AOL and Yahoo, Ford proved that Online can deliver significant impact and reach.  Ford broke the mold and showed that Online buys can be something more than a toe in the water, 5% reach 10 GRP kind of buy.  Instead, they bought more Online GRPs that day than they bought on TV (and they buy a lot of TV).”

The Rolling Stones Tour Award: Cross Media Optimization Studies (XMOS)

Two years after the original MSN Dove study, XMOS continues to play to packed houses. IAB’s XMOS roadshow brought in more than 1400 attendees around the country with over half of the attendees being so-called traditional marketers.  XMOS was also highlighted to 1250 attendees during MSN’s Interactive Best Practices roadshow.

The Mosquito Award: SPAM

Like mosquitoes, SPAM has been an irritant for some time. Just as mosquitoes can carry a dangerous virus like the West Nile, SPAM carries some of the vilest representations of mankind. It has gotten to the point where there are broad-based government (e.g., CAN SPAM legislation) and business-driven initiatives (e.g., AIM’s ethical email guidelines) to eradicate the “virus”.

The Telemarketer “Do not Call” Award: Pop-ups

As David Oglivy once said, “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.” Just as telemarketing was lucrative for many marketers, pop-ups perform but there’s a rising backlash against marketers using pop-ups. Anecdotally, I have heard of many people who now refuse to buy anything from a marketer who uses pop-ups or stop going to sites that overuse pop-ups. Today it’s ISPs and others helping consumers combat pop-ups. How far are we from legislation?

The Trista and Ryan Marriage of the Year Award: Yahoo! and Overture

Arguably one of the top acquisitions anywhere since the Time-Warner AOL deal a few years ago, the Yahoo!/Overture marriage sent shockwaves across the industry.  The ripple effect included the hype around Google’s rumored IPO and MSN’s much publicized re-focus on Search.

The Freddie Krueger Award: Dot-com’s

They’re baaaack. For the first time since 2000, there is an uptick in dot-com ad spend. Only this time, it’s a very different breed of dot-coms. Rather than ego and VC-driven mega deals with portals, these Darwinian survivors are tough-minded, analytical companies who only spend where there’s strong ROI. Chances are you haven’t seen or heard of CEOs like Erik Blachford of Expedia/InterActiveCorp or Ian Morris of Housevalues. All they are concerned about is running highly profitable enterprises rather than getting on the cover of some magazine.

The Smart bomb Award: Ad targeting

As Craig Calder of the NY Times observed, “2003 saw a significant shift towards more of an audience strategy, as evidenced by the rise in registration and behavioral targeting. This trend was driven by advertisers and agencies demanding better targeting rather than nameless faceless ROS blasts.” Technology providers such as Tacoda, sites such as Yahoo!, CBSMarketwatch, and The New York Times are increasingly offering more fine-tuned targeting solutions.

The Super Size Award: Ad units

Marketers went beyond the traditional banner in 2003 with the adoption of larger ad units such as UAP sizes, half-page ads, and full-page takeovers such as Unicast’s Full Screen Superstitial. Consumers understood as long as these larger ads were relevant to their interests and the creative was compelling.

The Power Steering/Windows Award: Rich media

As Paul Kadin of Eyeblaster stated, “Rich media has gone from developmental to fundamental.” At one time, power steering and windows were something special. Today they are a given in virtually every car. Doug Knopper of Doubleclick had a similar observation, “There’s little doubt that rich media usage will only continue to rise until it moves from being the minority of online ads to the majority.” [24×7]

Dave Chase is a partner with the Altus Alliance, a leading Strategic Growth Services firm in the Northwest, helping early stage businesses accelerate growth and maximize revenues through business planning, business development, corporate development, and strategic business planning.

Before joining Altus Alliance, Dave spent nearly 20 years in the industry with the last twelve years at Microsoft in various senior marketing and general management roles, including his role as MSN’s Managing Director for Industry Marketing & Relations. In that capacity, he was responsible for MSN taking a leadership role within the Interactive Marketing industry to grow Online’s share of the overall ad market in concert with AOL, CNET, Yahoo!, Google and other market leaders.

Dave has also been a successful investor and advisor to several early-stage companies. Whether chasing after his children, traveling the world or careening down mountains, Dave loves velocity as much in his personal life and he does in his professional life.