Lack of online advertising knowledge prompts launch of new tool

Online advertising has come a long way - but it still leaves a lot to be desired for media planners, says Huw Cawthron, digital media specialist at Tribal DDB in Vancouver.

Online advertising has come a long way – but it still leaves a lot to be desired for media planners, says Huw Cawthron, digital media specialist at Tribal DDB in Vancouver.

It can be like pulling teeth, for example, to get some portals and Web sites to share specific demographic information. But last month, national Web portal MSN.ca took a great first step in making the Web easier to assess, he says, with the debut of its MSN Advantage Marketing program, a site for media planners and clients.

‘Other Web sites and portals give proprietary information, but it’s never online and often it’s hard to get. And third-party audit information, like Media Metrix, for example, might list that MSN reaches 78% of the population, or gets 8 million unique visitors. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to reach the people who are into sports – no one breaks it down that way,’ says Cawthron.

‘Advantage takes it down to that level. It takes the guesswork out and really gives us numbers to show a client. I would hope other portals will follow this lead.’

MSN Advantage Marketing is designed to help advertisers make informed and intelligent decisions about digital marketing and online campaigns, says Judy Elder, general manager, of Toronto-based MSN.ca.

The core of the program is http://advantage.msn.ca, accessible to advertisers, which serves up Canadian market research statistics, information on advertising products and options, and demographic profiles for each of MSN.ca’s main Web properties.

The program, however, doesn’t include impression numbers or reach figures that allow users to see exactly how many people are being touched, protests Cawthron, adding that this feature ought to be included in the next evolution.

Advantage was spearheaded worldwide, says Elder, in part to draw attention, and revenue, from the business community. Other countries are doing their own versions of the program. ‘MSN.ca is Canada’s most popular and most visible Web site with Canadian consumers and yet, in terms of our market research and our awareness, we recognized that we really hadn’t done a good enough outreach to the advertising and marketing community.’

‘Consumers are embracing the Web in droves. But as is often the case with new channels, the business community is not necessarily leading consumers – we’re following them. We need to collectively get better at using the Web for marketing purposes.’

MSN.ca is running a six-week print trade campaign and undertaking a large-scale tour of advertising and media buying shops between now and Christmas to support the launch.