New York-As the media and its clients prepare for the interactive-advertising era, they must remember that brand personality will be more important than ever, DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc. chairman and CEO Keith Reinhard told Jupiter Communications Inc.'s "Online Advertising Forum" here.
Other sessions explored the merits of cross-media ad sales that encompass inventory in cable, broadcast, print and the Internet, as well as the expected upsurge in hand-held Nokia Corp. and Palm Pilot devices and picture cell phones.
But as keynoter, Reinhard offered a word of advice: Too many dot-com brands forget the basics of branding as they seek instant awareness.
Citing Cyberian Outpost Inc.'s "outrageous campaign [for Outpost.com], where gerbils were shot out of a cannon," he pointed out, "Nowhere in the campaign did we learn what Outpost.com actually did. This was the case with most of the other dot-com commercials that ran during the Super Bowl."
Reinhard added: "One thing we're all agreed on: The Internet changes everything. And now that everyone knows we will all be in e-business or out of business, e-business gives way to mobile business and location business."
He cited estimates which predict that by 2003, more people will be accessing the Internet by mobile media devices than by PC. "That's only 30 months away," he said.
To capitalize on the dizzying changes-some of which will empower consumers to receive only the messages they choose-Reinhard said the definition of advertising must be broadened.
"Instead of one-way focus on ads and commercials, we need to rediscover that the process of selling is a two-way thing," he said. After all, selling originated as an interactive process decades ago, via door-to-door transactions and the [Sears, Roebuck & Co.] catalog. Brands.will be more important than ever in the digital age. [But] brands will be built and sustained by involving consumers in a two-way experience."
Terms like target audience suggested shooting at people, a one-way sport, he said. "[But] the interactive age is more like tennis-your return of my serve initiates a two-way process."
At DDB Digital, "Our work is mostly PC-based, but we're urging our people to think beyond the PC," Reinhard added.
Within 36 months, he suggested, his agency would build brands by using hand-held devices that receive signals from smart pages and smart posters. One could initiate a "Big Mac Attack," then direct the hungry consumer to the nearest McDonald's Corp. locations, "delivering at the same time an electronic coupon as a little extra incentive," he said.
DDB has already developed rudimentary interaction on the Web for the "Polly Pocket" Web site for Hasbro Inc. and for PepsiCo Inc.'s new "Fruit Works" brand, promoted on the Web for the MTV: Music Television set, he said.
Reinhard said he wasn't an expert on the technology, but he does know the importance of the branding basics: point of view, promise and personality. "Internet brands have yet to learn these principles of branding," he warned.
Take McDonald's: The fast-food giant "takes a point of view that eating out is more than food; it's an experience. This leads to their universal implied promise [that] every time will be a good time. And.the personality is always warm and human."
Also, advertisers in the newer media need to "use emotion in creating a sale" in much the same way as TV commercials. "McDonald's made us smile, Hallmark made us cry. The Internet is still absent of much emotional content," he said.
There have been some Internet branding success stories. Reinhard singled out Ask Jeeves Inc.'s Jeeves and Pets.com Inc.'s sock puppet. In the future, General Mills Inc. might develop "a cyber version of Betty Crocker [who] could deliver tips and recipes to the consumer."
Also during the conference, Jupiter's latest ad-spending forecast predicted that online spending would rise to $16.5 billion in 2005, up from $5.3 billion this year and $7.3 billion in 2001, with financial services remaining the top category. Automotive should jump to the No. 2 category in 2005 from No. 4 now.
As with other mainstream media, Jupiter predicted that online will suffer from commercial clutter, with consumers to be exposed to 950 messages per day in 2005, or twice the 1999 level.