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Commentary: Eyes on the Enterprise—Can't Start a Fire...

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Steve Vonder Haar's "Eyes on the Enterprise" column appears in each issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.

Fair is fair, right? Isn’t it about time that the online multimedia sector should be sharing in some of the spoils of the industry’s passionate, rekindled interest in web advertising?

Microsoft agrees to buy online ad firm aQuantive in a deal for $6 billion. Google, on the heels of its 2006 acquisition of YouTube, antes up $3.1 billion for a deal to buy interactive advertising pioneer DoubleClick.

Seemingly, these are marriages made in multimedia heaven. The big technology guys are focusing on online advertising. Advertisers love the impact they can generate in the 30 seconds of a tightly produced television commercial. Any day now, Madison Avenue reps should be lining up around the block to plaster their video promotions on the web.

Trouble is, that would-be torrent of online video advertising revenues continues to look a lot more like a trickle. Video represents only a sliver of the $16.9 billion in 2006 online advertising revenues estimated for the industry by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.What gives?

One doesn’t have to look far for excuses. Some criticize unimaginative advertisers for their unwillingness to experiment. A lack of widely accepted technical standards certainly does not help the cause, either.

But let me humbly suggest a more fundamental reason why the market for television-style commercials online is not skyrocketing: Television commercials are not the best way to use web multimedia for marketing.

Instead of pitching itself as a poor man’s answer to television, the web has to distinguish itself by the end-user marketing experiences it can uniquely deliver.

It just so happens that businesses are looking to capitalize on the strengths of online multimedia as well. In a survey of 1,200 corporate executives conducted by Interactive Media Strategies in the first quarter of this year, 88% of respondents said that they view online multimedia as an effective marketing tool.

But not any ol’ online multimedia marketing will do for Corporate America. Only 20% of overall respondents reported that they would believe any form of online multimedia—including television-style commercials—to be effective.

Rather, the emphasis of respondents is clearly on driving results via the avenue of online multimedia. Of those surveyed by Interactive Media Strategies, 68% reported that they view online multimedia as effective only when it is used to reach registered users. Essentially, this is a fancy way of saying businesses want to use online multimedia to generate tangible, identifiable sales leads.

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