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Good, bad and ugly trends pop up with online advertising

Online advertising is changing. It might not seem possible, but pop-up ads have become even more annoying. Now when you copy information from some Web sites, the pop up ads come with them. And when you try to delete the ads, instead you waste time being directed to the Web site for the advertiser. It doesn`t seem possible to just get the information you are interested in.

As for spam, unsolicited e-mail advertising, few things are more annoying or waste more time for people who do a lot of work online.

Rick Looser, president and chief operating officer for The Cirlot Agency Inc. in Jackson, sees both good trends and bad trends developing for online advertising. One bad trend is that what was once a legitimate way to reach people has become junk e-mail-spam – and what he describes as “pop-up hell.”

“But one good trend is that advertisers are able to hone into niche markets like never before,” Looser said. “For example, the Web site of one of our clients, the Sweet Potato Queens, has become the go-to place for a captive, motivated and psychographically in-tuned audience. The Sweet Potato Queens began with a book, which became a phenomenon event with the St. Paddy`s Day Parade, which then spawned a Web site forum, which boasts millions of hits from like-minded women.”

Looser said those businesses finding the most success with online advertising are those whose success depends solely on the Internet.

“One of our clients, USLegalForms.com, is having great success with its online advertising efforts,” Looser said. “They provide legal forms of every type customized for every state. Click-throughs are how they get almost all their business. One great benefit to online advertising is that, unlike bulk direct mail, which is addressed to ‘current resident,’ online marketing allows the advertiser to know exactly whom they are buying. This means that online advertising can also be easily tracked and measured.”

For some businesses, an online presence is the essence of the brand, for example, ebay or Amazon.com. Looser said other companies, like their clients The Everyday Gourmet and Gail Pittman, had a great brand before the Internet was prevalent.

“They still have great brands, but the Internet has expanded their customer base and reach in a way that millions of dollars in brick-and-mortar or storefronts could never have done,” he said.

Looser said advertising agencies can play an important role in online advertising by being “the guardian of the brand,” making sure there is a comprehensive, strategic approach to the online advertising.

“Designing the ad is the mechanics and, quite frankly, the easiest part,” he said.

Looser expects in the future online advertising will closely mirror online commerce. Just as Web sites have gotten more sophisticated and focused, so will the advertising.

“A similar analogy may be observed in the banking industry,” he said. “When ATMs were first introduced about 25 years ago, there was a small, core group of individuals who liked and used the service. Others were skeptical, didn`t trust them and saw no use for the technology. Now, based on recent research done by our sister company, PMR Research, electronic banking has emerged as the number one deciding factor for people searching for a financial institution. Quite a turnaround. I feel the same will hold true for online advertising.

“Also, the success will be based on the credibility of the site on which one finds the advertising. For example, which would be more credible, an ad found in the Wall Street Journal or in the Enquirer? The same will hold true for electronic advertising. If you trust the site, you trust the advertiser.”

Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Advertising, said at this point, much of what people seem to look for online is information to answer their questions or reinforce their opinions.

“Thus, the Web site is important,” Robinson said. “Pure ads – like pop-up ads – some find annoying. They are looking for something that does not get in their way when they don`t want to be bothered, but answers their questions when they are being inquisitive.”

Robinson said an online presence is necessary these days for overall branding. Online does not replace the other key media, but rather adds a new dimension.

“People want information, and many receive the initial exposure in 60 or 30 seconds or less,” Robinson said. “Before they buy, they want to know more. They can find it online, or should be able to.”

Both creative and technical people are needed to design Web sites. Some people do both well. Robinson said they see their role primarily in concept and design, letting the technically qualified help them fit it to the system.

What is the future for advertising on the Internet?

“Wow, if I knew that, I would write a book and sell my tapes on an advertorial on the cable channels late at night,” Robinson said. “There will always be the need for companies and individuals to present their ideas and products to the market. We have to be attuned to what the customer wants, how the customer buys and continue our role in advising our clients how to reach them. What will it look like? I have no idea, but I plan to be right in the middle of it.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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