EDITOR'S NOTES - by Diane W. Collins

Broadband Ads More Effective-- As Long as You Rule Out the Real World.
by Diane W. Collins

Interactive advertising and its various factions are at it again. In an ivory tower comparison requiring a broadband environment, the effectiveness of rich media ads versus narrowband ads has been evaluated. Broadband environment? That's a place where most Internet users do not yet reside and the pre-qualifications for this contest don't stop there.

Here's how it shakes out. At one end of the ring you have your standard static gif compressed to minimize load time...the lightweight. This contender can exist in almost any online environment. On the other end of the ring you have your rich media ad which sings, dances, play videos, asks you questions to which you may respond, and takes your credit card...the heavyweight. The heavyweight can only function properly on his turf...AKA, within a broadband environment. Therefore, the lightweight is required by this contest to give the challenging heavyweight the hometown advantage. Further, the only criteria permitted to determine the winner of the match are: which of the two has a better brand recall; provides a better branding experience; and engages viewers for longer periods of time. We needed a study for this?

The Rich Media I Advertising Program, a five month study was administered by Ipsos-ASI market research and developed by Intel Corp and @Home. According to an article in CyberAtlas, "the study was developed to determine the effectiveness of rich media ads in a broadband environment compared to narrowband ads." Some heavy hitters took part in this study. They include AT&T, Bank of America, First USA, Intel Corp., Levi Strauss & Co., and Toys R Us. In my opinion, the study has no relationship to real world Internet and delivered what would be obvious "in a perfect broadband world"...which the Internet is not.

Let's make this a fair fight and put it all into perspective. Having the majority of the Internet on a broadband connection is a thing of the future. Currently, according to GVU's 9th WWW User Survey completed in April 1998, 71.6% of Internet users access the Internet through a means other than what would qualify as a broadband connection. In fact, of US users 24.3% still access through a 28K modem, 25.2% use 36K and 19.4% access via a 56K modem capability. The other 4% use a 14K modem or under. That means that 71.6% of Internet users don't have a connection speed fast enough to view broadband ads. Now if your target market falls into the high tech field where broadband connectivity is commonplace, great. But last time I checked AT&T, Bank of America, Levi Strauss & Co., and Toys R Us had clients that fit main stream America.

Interactive advertising has a propensity for living technologically ahead of its audience. The temptation for this is great when you work soley with technology experts in developing your interactive marketing plan. There is a need to balance technology with real world market experience. Broadband ads have great future potential but the user has to have time to catch up. Let's not sell rich media as if it were todays most effective means of reaching the Internet audience. It just isn't so.

MARCH 4, 1999

Supporting Documents:
9th GVU's 9th WWW User Survey: How Internet Users Connect
Broadband ISDN Communications
Broadband Ads More Effective: Higher Recall, Better Branding for Rich Media Ads
March 1, 1999, CyberAtlas. (File no longer on their server.)



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