In the immortal words of Kool Moe Dee: “It’s the Wild, Wild West”

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Our team watched a webinar recently that was marketed as a lesson in online versus traditional media buying. First, I’d like to say how proud I am of our media department. We could have easily taught the class. Wowza. All I can say is that it’s a good thing the webinar was free.

We’ve viewed a number of these sorts of tutorials over the past few years and I’ve noticed some commonality among them. Namely, everyone seems to have forgotten the most basic lessons of media buying. For buying online is no different than buying television or radio or outdoor. Online advertising is just one more component to compliment the vast array of media options available. That said, firms shouldn’t need a “traditional media strategy” and then an “online media strategy” – both should seek the same end: efficiency.

Now I’ll grant that the focus of online advertising is a bit different than that of tradition media (niche audiences and high frequency versus lower-frequency and mass audiences), so it’s a different animal in that respect. It combines the sight and sound aspect of TV advertising, the demographic targeting of radio and the frequency of outdoor….with state-of-the-art psychographic and behavioral targeting laid on top.

It’s amazing and new, though in many ways its debut mirrors that of another media that we’re all too familiar with: television. On July 1, 1941, Bulova Watches ran this spot for NINE DOLLARS in the New York DMA (side note – can you think of anything you can do for $9 in New York now?). A whole new frontier opened up, but the destabilization that resulted created something of a wild west in the realm of media buying.

Today we’re witnessing a shift of equal, if not greater proportions. Standards have evaporated and it’s every director, planner, buyer and publisher for herself. Nielsen didn’t exist in 1941 when Bulova went on the air with its TV spot. With time regulations, measurement tools and standards emerged that helped buyers comprehend their new medium, and television became a sellers’ market.

The same will happen for online, but just as then, it will take time. Until that day, we’ve all got to do our best as buyers to pull information from our publisher partners and make the most efficient, creative and smartest buys we can. Yippe-ki-yay!


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