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Commentary: The irritant known as Web marketing

Gartner is like everyone else when it comes to Web marketing ploys, such as pop-up ads and serial browser launches to "trap" users: The first reaction is that of annoyance.

    By Gareth Herschel and Walter Janowski, Gartner Analysts

    Gartner is like everyone else when it comes to Web marketing ploys, such as pop-up ads and serial browser launches to "trap" users: The first reaction is that of annoyance.

    See news story:
    "Spam King" leads new trend in annoying promotions
    However, the real question is whether those tactics--pioneered by often successful pornography sites--ultimately can boost revenue for mainstream advertisers and Web vendors. Gartner believes that the tactics will likely fail that test.

    Such Web marketing tactics can boost the traffic volumes of affiliates, but the visitors will likely be of low quality. Since advertisers charge per thousand impressions, advertising on such sites will become more expensive while it also becomes less effective.

    E-commerce vendors should consider such techniques within the larger context of how they want to disseminate their brands. That means vendors should consider how people get to their sites as well as the number of people who get there (that is, the raw traffic volumes). Effective Web selling comes from fine-tuning a host of factors rather than adding gimmicks.

    Finally, customers will judge the enterprise by their experience on its Web site. If the enterprise wants people to value the relationship, it must allow them to control the relationship and the interaction.

    In general, Gartner believes that Web advertising will become less effective. The impact of the advertising tactics often depends on customers' connection speeds. For two reasons, those methods work less effectively with low-speed users, who will continue to outnumber broadband users until 2005.

    First, the download time associated with each new browser window will inconvenience the low-speed user particularly. Second, low-speed users have the opportunity to close the new window before it fully loads, thus bypassing the message. Broadband users will not be able to react before the full content loads, but serial browser launches could drop users into an infinite loop that only a system reboot could solve. That would not elicit the user's goodwill.

    Low-quality Web advertisements for markets with low differentiation will likely sport more of these tactics. Unfortunately for mainstream businesses, this trend marks the beginning of the end for quality Web-based advertising, since audiences will become less responsive to all online advertising--if that is possible.

    (For related commentary on maximizing the impact of banner ads, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.