WWW – Advertising on the web, Then and Now

What is it about young men? They just can’t take their hands off it. They love the intense. The detailed. The more maybe plausible, the more wonderful. The web is the absolute pinnacle of wank; there’s lots to get excited about and very little comes of the experience.

Despite the web’s huge faults, like the rest of them, I absolutely love the damn thing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. As a buyer, I’m impaled upon the horn of a dilemma; I have to buy the web, and it’s great to work in, but how do I stop myself getting annoyed at the wankers?

Why do they Wank?

Web has the WOW factor. On the surface, the web offers the best of all worlds. An interactive one-on-one with customers, with TV style creative, at a fraction the cost per hit, often. And it’s sure to get better. It’s now an integral part of almost every campaign run in the western world. I’ve not had a client brief us on anything in 3 or 4 years that didn’t involve some element of working in with their web-site or creating a new one.

From the little school girl selling hand-made designs for Xmas cards to the grandmother giving advice on how to cut roses, the web allows commerce to bloom at almost no cost and with no barriers. As a servant of the species, I can see few greater political and social developments. It’s a damn shame it is really only helping us in the West, but in time…

It’s big for marketers

You can reduce costs while increasing the information and improving the sales experience. You can segment, hit and adjust messages instantly according to effectiveness; all this for almost no increase in cost per sale. And it can hit anywhere in the world.

You can get close

Theoretically you can develop strong bonds with customers via the web, especially with chat rooms and the like. By definition it’s got to be with people who don’t have a lot to do with their lives, but hey, if they have the money, who cares? Does your business interact with customers? Or do you just post up electronic brochures? You can do both.

You can hit on the ones you want

You can find anyone with the right search engine listings. People who want to get it off with caterpillars. You could up-sell them to butterflies. Cross-sell them a net or flowers, value add with repellent (to make them more of a tease) and perhaps a can of insecticide to ensure they have to come back to you for more once the relationship has died.

You can change your appeal in minutes

The blue coloured background is getting 57% more sales than the purple one. Let’s do them blue. Or you can play with the search engine keywords – see what happens.

You can tell your mates

Ain’t it nice to send a (retailer, wholesaler, even support staff etc.)  customer to your website while you’re on the phone to them. You can say, “See the red one there? That’s the model you need. It fits and doesn’t it look great? And $300 less than the oppositions. How many pallet loads should I put you down for?”.

How to do it with a smile

I must start this bit with a caution. There are a lot of intelligent sounding 20 something’s running around spitting jargon at their customers. They wear stylish glasses. They look you in the eye. They believe what they are saying. They are much more ‘aware’ of what works on the web than you and I, except for one thing. They are full of shit.

What works is:-

1. getting people to your site

2. convincing them to buy something

3. taking the money from them

There is no other reason to operate a site, unless you’re in the charity business. I reiterate the blinkingly obvious here because so many people miss the point. Bottom line is all that counts in cyberspace, like any other media.


What to look for

Design – Always be good looking

The media does not dictate the message. The punters see your normal ads. They will see your website and expect the same. The punters expect companies to talk with one voice. They don’t have time to make distinctions. The basics of design, which you, or at the least your creative team, should know from other direct disciplines, must be adhered to. Appropriate and effective colours, good typesetting, keeping the message simple, putting emphasis on the products that have the best margins etc. and especially respecting and helping the punter’s purchase process, stay the same, regardless of media.

Dumber the better

I’m fairly stupid, so I’m a big believer in simplicity. That goes for everything on the web. If you don’t get it instantly, remember; neither will anyone else. Navigation is critical. You must make it drop dead easy for even the dumbest to find their way around your site.

First impressions count

Like any sale, the first few seconds are critical. Give them a moving front end, for 10-30 seconds. It will keep them entertained for the first short while as your back end loads. Ideally it tells them what the site’s about, or what’s on special. It hugely reduces the surfing effect – keeping them on your site. (Be careful your e-commerce system works with the programs. I’ve been warned there’s been some problems.)

Seduce your customers

Movement and sound give this. Sound is often turned off on people’s computers, but this is changing. I heard somebody is developing smell for the web (that will be great for selling things to eat and really interesting on the porn sites).

Dress for them

Make your pickies in the style of your audience. You can’t use stock shots or clip art, unless you want to look like every other pissy little home business trying to masquerade as a big company. It’s about standing out from competitors in a market, but still fitting into the punter’s expectations and within your branding. It’s a tricky art. It is often best to leave at least the ‘template’ design  to your agency or design team.

Be a sincere brand

Stick to a theme. Make sure it’s in keeping with your normal corporate communications. Your brand you’ve spent years and millions building should not take off on a tangent just because some kid straight out of design school is working on your website and he wants to show something exciting to his girlfriend.

Buy off the rack

If you’re smaller, there are great programs around now like Sausage’s Business in a Box etc. which allow you to set up your own web-site or at least have your own team update it cheaply. Get your own digital camera. Shoot and upload yourself. It will save you heaps of money.

Old lines and tricks work

If you’re a bigger player, talk to successful big players. You don’t have to invent your own total systems, regardless of what the IT department says. Groups like E-Store have proprietary systems they may sell/lease to you that seem to work for large inventories.

Be deep

If they seek more information on whatever the topic is, have more if you can. It’s good to have facts beneath the hype even if they are just references or links. It gives you credibility. No-one buys from the shonky. Earn their trust. And remember people will often pay you to have their link on your site.

Like equals like

Book marketers do this well. They link a purchase of a book with other sales to people who’ve bought that book. They tell you those other people bought X, Y & Z titles too. It instantly generates up-sells, cross-sells etc. You could do that in almost any market.

As them the question

You can ask a few questions when they fill out the registration form. You can even do it with pop-ups as they skim through. (They tend to be a bit unpopular – it’s important not to overdo it.) Gather data any way you can. It’s good to know what your customers want and it’s bloody near free.

Update your act

Nothing upsets a customer more than incorrect information. And if you’re not careful, Professor Fels and the Australian Competition and Consumer Cavalry will get you.

Watch Out for ‘Maintenance’.

I hate the word. People doing something that can’t be updated unless they do it and charge for it, data holding charges, data transfer charges, the list is more extensive and harder to fathom than bank charges. Then again, you don’t want the thing clogging up when your TV campaign starts, because it can’t handle the volume. But be very careful what on-going costs you get locked into.

Get others to pay

If you’re putting in links, or want to show details about the products you’re selling etc. ring the supplier and ask them if they want to pay for the privilege. Think like Yellow Pages. Try ‘how about a few bucks towards our costs, thanks’?

Assure them you’re safe

From having a physical store, which gives the punters confidence because they can take back the goods, to safe e-commerce by using a familiar branded system etc.

Do the deed

Get the bloody sale. Some of the most successful sites are still only achieving sales of one in 500 to 1000  people who visit them. The worst problem seems to be abandoned shopping carts. The best system (and I’ve never seen it operate) would be live (or apparently live) contact via the site during the sales process. “I’m John, can I help? I see you’re interested in a Titanium G4, do you want us to throw in a DVD drive?”  Another good closing device is increasing the expectation that they won’t get the deal unless they buy right now – “only 10 left – hurry”.  Try anything. Only a few seem to have got it right.

Give it to them

Like all the other aspects of a sale, if you make the delivery hard or expensive, poof- they are gone. Offer cost and timing options. Deliver when you say you will. Or at least tell them what’s happening, and give them alternatives by email, so they don’t get angry with you.


How to buy the web as a media

Bigger is better

The big players, like the banks, telcos, TV stations etc. get more hits. They can afford to advertise their sites. More critical, we often have to use them since they’ve closed down all their branches. You can just rent space on banners, pop-ups, sites within sites and the like, but you can also do link swap-deals, share inquiry leads, value-add to their information and any way you do it, you’ll benefit from their huge catch nets. Yes, they want their pound of flesh, but you know if it’s going to pay very quickly. If you try the search engine, banner ads or whatever they are trying to sell you for a few hours and it doesn’t work, drop it.

Hits don’t always click

‘Hits’ could be gliches on the telephone wires. They could be people opening the page, saying to themselves “Shit, I thought I was going to Big Hunky Pricks, but I’ve landed on BHP, and they look bog ugly!” and leaving again. Yes, BHP has had a hit, but so bloody what? On the other hand if they click through for a while, ie. look at mineral prices, delivery systems and try to open an account, you’d have to say BHP is communicating with its market. At a cost of 0.1 cent to 10 cents a ‘hit’ (I rang a few) they don’t seem expensive in comparison to the per-click rate of up to $2.00, but it’s what you’re getting for the money that counts.

Pay by sale?

If they really think they have something sexy, offer the promoter a deal where you pay per sale. If they take you up on it, they’re either confident or stupid, which is OK by me.

Ask what else they can do for you

You can set up a banner ad so it automatically sends sms messages or more complex emails to punters, plays videos or music, runs searches, games etc. Sounds nice. Try the ideas on a small scale and please make an effort to track them.

Search Engines Sell

Some 81% of surfers get to your site via a search engine. Businesses that optimise your position on the right search engines can get you business, but watch their costs.

Look excited too

People who sell space on the web are often easily scared off. I think it’s the whole ‘we’re cyber surfers, not capitalists’ bit, but the poor little things get all shaky if you don’t look interested, so please be encouraging. Oh, why bother? Try this instead. “That sounds very exciting, are many of your clients actually making money out of it? How can you prove that to me?”

Where are you going now?

As it speeds up and becomes more focused on working efficiently, on generating funds and opening up markets, the web will be one of our core marketing tools. It’s way beyond the fringe now. As it invades our homes (in fridges, on phones, replacing TV) the web will evolve into the thing you, as a marketer, will spend more time in than anything else.

It’s nice to know the web is destined to become much more user-friendly for everyone, especially very important customers like you and I. Let’s just hope it’s representatives become more realistic along the way. Remember the old saying: ‘Judge them on what they actually do for you, not what they say they’ll do’.

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