I-Marketing Alive and Kicking in 2002

Despite ubiquitous reports of a sagging onlineadvertising market, there are plenty of reasons fori-marketing managers to look ahead with optimism.

“We have been very successful despite the downturn,”Deborah de Freitas, senior manager of online marketingat Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL), told the E-CommerceTimes. “We will continue to invest in our onlinemarketing efforts, spending more than a year ago atthis time.”

On the whole, the 2001 online advertising market actually outpaced the previous year’s market in termsof unique ad growth until the second week of November, and has been only slightly slower since, according toJupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq: JMXI).

The slumping economy and rigid directives forprofitability have impacted many companies’advertising budgets. But resourceful marketingprofessionals continue to learn how to spend moreefficiently and are forging ahead with ambitious goalsfor 2002.

Signs of Life

Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL) may be an anomaly, enjoying year-over-yearas well as quarter-over-quarter growth; but the Austin,Texas-based computer giant is not alone in its bullishadvertising outlook.

In fact, the number of Fortune 100 companiesadvertising online grew by 21 percent from 2000 to 2001,according to Jupiter Media Metrix.

One factor driving this growth could be an ever-expanding stableof market-tested data that lets companies hone best practices in i-marketing.

Powerful Data

“Advertisers have tested various types of campaignsand have gained insights into the type of onlineadvertising that works best for their goals,” TomHaas, manager of corporate marketing communicationsat Siemens (NYSE: SI), told theE-Commerce Times.

For its part, Dell has culled more than a year’s worth ofmarketing data. During that time, a large portion ofthe company’s ad dollars were spent online.

“We’ve used that knowledge to build a robust plan forlead generation and to tell us what things we need totest to get more learning for future growth,” deFreitas said. “We’re much better at forecasting what[online advertising] can do for us.”

Narrowing Targets

While improved metrics have helped marketers increase their spending efficiency, so, ironically, has thedot-com shakeout.

The “thinning of the herd” that has occurred among Webcompanies has consolidated Internet usership,making it easier to reach a core audience, said Haas.

“Siemens has utilized the timing effectively and hasbeen able to gain a higher share of voice than it mayhave had during a better economic time,” he added.

Stay the Course

Even some smaller companies have gritty confidence in their favorable prognosis fori-marketing.

For example, number three travel site Orbitz launched its online service in 2001 with aggressive i-marketing plans, and the company said those plans have not been canceled by the weak economy.

“We continue to embrace online marketing as animportant piece of everything we do,” Orbitz vicepresident of marketing Michael Sands told theE-Commerce Times. “We don’t let the economic climateaffect our ad strategy.”

Resilient, Not Rosy

Challenges still await Sands and his peers in 2002 andbeyond, including selecting the right technology todeliver ad campaigns, integrating online marketingefforts effectively with other channels, andunderstanding evolving customer bases.

“We have to temper our enthusiasm for new technology,”Sands said. “We have to choose the technologies thathelp the consumer, as opposed to just pleasing ourcreative bent.”

Taking advantage of online technology whileintegrating it with traditional offline channels willcontinue to occupy Siemens’ Haas.

“[We’ll launch] more integrated campaigns utilizingthe best of each medium to create a cohesive messageand reach customers effectively,” he said.

Growth Opportunity

Fueling many marketing executives’ sanguine outlooks is thenotion that while i-marketing has delivered amplereturns, it has not reached its full potential yet.

“I-marketing is still not completely delivering on thepromise for true one-to-one interactions withconsumers, using their behavior to tailor an onlineexperience more suited to their needs,” deFreitas said. “That should only increase consideration andconversion rates from this media.”

Online advertising campaigns will improve byblending more seamlessly with offline media. And Sandssuggested that online marketers are raisingthe bar for the entire marketing field.

“As broadband takes hold and the lines[between channels] blur, marketing principles we’repioneering online will ultimately be embraced byoffline channels,” he said.

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