It's long been accepted that the bulk of Internet innovationflows eastwards. Due to a combination of market size, existinginfrastructure and a more developed VC industry, what happens inthe US today reaches the UK about six months to a year later,and gets to Europe some time after that.
We may have the most advanced iTV market in the world, theJapanese and the Finns can battle it out for leadership inmobile, and Korea has more broadband than anyone, but ine-business, the US still leads the way. But there are areaswhere this is changing. Not because we, and the rest of Europe,are catching up with the US, but because technology is ceasingto be the dominant factor in certain business uses ofinteractive media, in particular online advertising.
I first started thinking about this last November, when I was atthe Ad:tech conference in New York. Many of the panels therewere spilt between those who felt that online advertising wasbecoming too intrusive, as evinced by the gathering fury overspam and the rise of pop-up blocking software, and those whofelt that it wasn't intrusive enough. The latter camp arguedthat the reason click-through rates were falling was becausepeople were becoming inured to ads and that, in order to cutthrough, something far more aggressive was required. Onepanellist went so far as to suggest a format that placed an adin front of the home page of the site you wanted to visit,staying in place for 20 seconds before allowing you through.
At the time I thought this was ludicrous. Surely online requirespeople to opt-in to advertising in a way no other medium does,and in order to achieve that opt-in, the advertising has todeliver more value to the consumer than advertising in any othermedium?
What made me think again was the response on either side of theAtlantic to the emergence of online video advertising. In the UKthe use of the format to run TV ads online was rejected asforcing the thinking from one medium onto another. CharlieDobres, CEO of media agency iLevel, suggested in NMA that it waslike using the technology from singing birthday cards to run 30second radio ads when you turn the pages of a newspaper. Butshortly afterwards a US user survey carried out by Dynamic Logicshowed some amazing results. Online video advertising liftedbrand awareness by 54%, message association by 144%, brandfavourability by 40% and intent to purchase by 47%.
What was even more attention-grabbing was that only 28% of thosesurveyed were annoyed by the video ads, much fewer than thepercentage who typically report being annoyed by pop-ups. Thisled me to wonder whether the online advertising market hadreached a sufficient degree of maturity that technologicalfactors were being overtaken in importance by cultural ones. Asanyone whose compared US and UK approaches to advertising knows,the two are wildly different. US consumers tolerate a muchgreater density of advertising of a type that UK consumersregard as lacking in subtlety. Americans in their turn will havelittle truck with the more quirky products of the UK advertisingindustry, believing it to look cheap.
Of course, neither approach is better than the other, howevermuch we might want to believe our advertising in the best in theworld. What it means instead is that we need to consider newonline advertising formats and technologies on their own meritsand adapt them to suit our own audiences. It's not the filesize that matters – it's what you do with it that counts.
About the author: Michael Nutley is the editor ofNew Media Age