When Will Online Advertising Hit Home?

It’s been promised for a while now. The personalized Web, the one that hits you right where you live.

Amazon is trying it with its store-for-every-person campaign, the ultimate in customization. But I’m talking about really hitting a shopper where he or she lives. On the street where he lives. In her own neighborhood.

Local advertising, it seems to me, is an idea whose time has come. So where is it? Stuck in the formative stages, is my guess.

Waiting Patiently

There are, of course, a whole bunch of logistical hurdles to be cleared, not the least of which is transforming an advertising sales force used to selling to dot coms and other big spenders into one that can convince mom-and-pop soda stand to advertise online.

One thing is certain: consumer reluctance shouldn’t be holding it back. I realized recently that much of the news and information I search for, even on sites like Yahoo!, is local in nature. A weather forecast. A concert ticket update. Movie listings.

And yet, the ads I get are the same as they ever were. Yes, sometimes they’re bigger and flashier.

Alternative Therapy

Of course, local advertising won’t work everywhere — at least, not without a lot more work. The technology exists to localize what are otherwise national, generic Web pages. But I’m talking about those sites that already have local information on them.

An ad from my neighborhood sub shop, or my local pizza parlor, would without question grab my attention.

Band of Jerks

It would also beat having paratroopers dropping across my screen. That’s exactly what anyone who surfed to Weather.com got for a couple weeks before that World War II movie, “Band of Brothers,” arrived on television.

The paratroopers themselves were no big deal. They just sailed across the page. But the plane they “jumped” from was nearly as loud as the real thing. A jarring wake-up call not just for the person on the computer, but for everyone in the house.

Yes, I know I can adjust my volume, but why should I have to? And I know, too, that I still remember the movie’s name, which is more than can be said for many ads that stopped appearing a month ago.

Pay Attention

It’s no secret that the advertising industry is interested in grabbing me by the collar, stopping me in my tracks. But why use gimmicks?

Too much attention has been paid to building bigger, brighter, louder, more impossible-to-overlook ad units. What about paying attention to what’s actually in them?

Nothing affects a person more than what’s going on in her backyard. Nothing is more likely to stop me from surfing away faster than the mention of my hometown on a Web page. The psychology is easy to understand: we are all interested, first and foremost, in ourselves — in what affects us most directly.

Hurry, Hurry

Maybe local ads are just around the corner. But if so, all efforts should be made to speed their arrival. It’s time to stop talking about the personalization possibilities of the Web and time to start making what’s possible real.

If one more buzzing airplane screams across my computer screen and wakens my kids, I might actually take that drastic step of turning down the volume.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.

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