By Debra Aho Williamson
NEW YORK--There was a hidden benefit to last week's inaugural meeting of the
Internet Advertising Bureau. For five straight hours, the phones of agency
Internet media buyers probably didn't ring once.
The gathering here brought together more than 300 executives involved in all
aspects of Internet advertising, from salespeople to measurement companies to
research providers. The purpose: to unite what has been a disparate, confusing
medium under one common goal.
"We are here to say we're a real medium and we're committed to making it
accepted as one," said Rich LeFurgy, the group's acting chairman and
VP-advertising and product development at Starwave Corp.
The New York-based IAB this fall will start releasing a monthly tally of
Internet ad spending, in a program overseen by Coopers & Lybrand. The group
hopes to solicit the participation of all Web sites generating at least $5,000
per month in ad revenue. Sites will be expected to provide total ad revenues
and revenues by product category.
IAB will have three levels of membership, for companies selling ad space;
companies that support ad sales activities; and other related organizations.
At a meeting populated predominantly by suits (a sign, perhaps, of the
magazine-TV-newspaper work that many of these people did in an earlier life),
there was a lot of cheerleading, tempered by a good dose of hard reality.
"Advertisers are just beginning to think about this concept of building Web
sites to meet marketing objectives," said keynote speaker Bill Harvey,
president of Next Century Media, Woodstock, N.Y.
A recent survey by WebTrack, a service of New York consultancy Jupiter
Communications, found that two-thirds of all ad spending on the Web went
toward only 10 sites. Additionally, the bulk of ad spending comes from two
categories--computer companies and Internet companies.
"All of us in the industry and this room have not cracked the code" to reach
mass-market advertisers, Mr. LeFurgy said.
Also clear from last week's meeting: the incredible disconnect that still
exists between agencies and sellers of online media. In a panel discussion by
turns rancorous, bitter and frustration-laden, agency executives pleaded with
sites to provide accurate and timely reporting on who is seeing their
"The technology exists for each of you to know the number of unique users who
hit your site," said John Nardone, director of media and research services at
Modem Media, Westport, Conn. "Everyone seems to be claiming ignorance, and
that to me is inexcusable."
The tension was evident even within the audience. When some executives said
they'd be willing to take as little as $2,000 in business from an advertiser
just to get in the door, others in the audience hissed "Just say no," a catch
phrase that lingered throughout the meeting.
"We need to take a chance and stop the madness," Mr. LeFurgy said. "Just
because we're in cyberspace doesn't mean the physics of advertising, marketing
and publishing don't apply. The do apply."
Copyright June 1996 Crain Communications Inc.