Consider this: Online ad revenue down, time to invest in infrastructure

It’s not exactly news. Advertising is struggling. TV, radio, print, classifieds and online are all down and it’s been years since ad revenues have been up. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), in the U.S., “year-to-date Internet advertising revenues through June 2009 totaled $10.9 billion, down 5.3 percent from the $11.5 billion reported for the same six-month period in 2008.”

Sounds grim, but…

Not surprisingly, online has easily been the least affected advertising sector under current economic conditions. In fact, some forecasts paint an optimistic overall picture for most advertising sectors in 2010. Good to know, but it’s not the entire picture. It’s not even close.

Assuming a reasonable comeback is inevitable and that the traditional advertising model is not slowly dying, but undergoing a slight transformation, the next question should be “how has advertising changed and what can we do to adapt and prosper?”

Two different answers from two different marketers

Marketer 1’s answer: “The market is just too unstable right now. There’s no doubt that high unemployment and instability in the financial markets is affecting everyone’s ad revenues so we know it’s not just us. We need to wait it out and see where the trends are going once things get settled. No sense in making wholesale changes to our existing infrastructure if ______ is going to die in two years thanks to the new ______ technologies.”

Marketer 2’s answer: “Advertising and marketing in more traditional media haven’t changed much in a long time. Even the internet ad model was borrowed from print and television to some extent. Now’s an ideal time to figure out where this train is heading and use what’s best for us. If there was ever a time to not only think outside the box but do outside the box, it’s now.”

Both approaches sound reasonable enough, especially considering we’re all still feeling the effects of a global economic meltdown. But all things being equal, who’s right?

Tradition points to Marketer 1’s solution. The reality is, Marketer 2’s approach makes the most sense.

While investing in new, even experimental marketing technologies during tough times is the last thing most companies want to do, there’s a school of thought that says it’s the perfect storm for internet marketing professionals.

Consider:

  • Online marketing is the future. NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker’s biggest mistake wasn’t choosing the wrong guy for ‘The Tonight Show.’ It was choosing the wrong medium on which to focus. While Conan O’Brien’s TV ratings were mediocre, the tremendous backlash that NBC continues to absorb was a direct result of Mr. O’Brien’s unbelievable popularity. Something that doesn’t show up on a Neilsen report. Television ad spending is slowly but surely being shifted towards the online sector. The increased use of DVRs and YouTube/Hulu snippets has made the act of viewing TV a moving target, particularly among younger audiences.
  • If you have downtime, use it for research. Search and research which solutions will work best for your company during trying and prosperous economic times.
  • Supply and demand. Negotiating pricing on vendor contracts and consulting fees is not easy. Whoever does the negotiating will have the upper hand when it’s a buyer’s market.

A key point that needs to be emphasized is that modern marketing techniques don’t have to cost much, if anything. Facebook, blog and Twitter accounts are free. RSS feeds can be set up with minimal technical knowledge. Having access to staff with HTML, CSS and JavaScript knowledge is a tremendous asset to marketers for countless reasons.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you do your research. Search is your friend, use it.

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