Admakers in Cyberspace: Looking for the Proper Launch Vehicle

By Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 20, 1995 | Go to article overview

Admakers in Cyberspace: Looking for the Proper Launch Vehicle


Laurent Belsie, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE information highway of the future will cut a wide swath through today's business world, creating new industries and challenging old ones. Perhaps the industry with the most to gain -- and lose -- is advertising.

Advertisers wonder:

What should an Internet ad look like? If everyone picks -- and pays for -- only the news and entertainment they want, who is going to choose to look at the ads? And how are they going to view them: on a two-way TV set hooked to cable, on a computer linked to the Internet, or some other hybrid technology of telephones and satellites that's still on the drawing board?

Advertising agencies have faced mounting criticism from clients that they are failing to exploit the new media, most recently from Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond Smith. Last week, the industry responded. An industry-backed group, called the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment, released a report outlining how it plans to take a leading role in the emerging world of electronic, interactive information.

The report itself was short on specifics because, well, no one knows yet what the new media will look like. It's "very hard to get valid response from consumers without their being able to touch and feel the product," said Judy Black of ad-agency Bozell Inc. Still, some early surveys and experiments summarized by the report suggest certain possibilities for ad agencies.

Education over sports

One important finding is that consumers want the new media to provide information, not just entertainment. Louis Harris and Associates found last October, for example, that more people wanted electronic information or education services (63 percent) than sports and entertainment (40 percent). Most of that information should be news and consumer-related, the survey found, but advertisers could have an opening too.

When a Canadian interactive television service offered viewers alternative ads, it found that viewers who made a choice had 40 percent higher recall of the commercial than those who had watched the default ad.

The trick will be to package ad information in a new way. When Advertising Age asked more than 1,000 adults last fall whether interactive services on home computers and televisions should include advertising, two-thirds said no. But when the Roper Organization last year asked if people wanted information about specific products and brands through the new media, just over half said yes. …

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