The world of advertising was not always the cut-throat competitive field it is today.Ads in television and newspapers were the norm a decade ago, and internet was just one of the new things on the horizon.Internet advertising actually began in 1994 when HotWired contracted 14 advertisers for its entry in the online market. In the next two years, the internet gained in popularity as a possible advertising medium, and by 1997, websites were already being advertised in the traditional media. As Kaye puts it:"The growth of Internet advertising since its 1994 birth has been truly phenomenal. What started out with banners as bland and common as roadside billboards has exploded into a rich-media interactive environment that may soon rival the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. (Kaye et al, 2001)."But the internet was not always popular as an advertising medium. At the end of the millennium, there was some serious soul-searching done by commercial enterprises on whether the internet really had the possibilities in advertising that had been earlier claimed. This was closely associated with the bursting of the dot.com bubble. As Schumann and Thorson point out in their book written in 1999:"Yet, many companies are growing disillusioned with the commercial possibilities of online advertising, and some have suggested that the Internet is better suited for interpersonal communication and personal sites rather than commercial sites.. Executives are questioning whether the potential of the Internet is real or just hype, and some companies are considering decreasing or removing their investment in online advertising".(Schumann et al, 1999)
This changed down the years and the internet is now an established advertising medium due to a few specific reasons.
The very first was the decreasing price of software and hardware. What used to be expensive software and hardware ten years ago has today become open source software and nearly free hardware. This has led to the increased possibility of setting up websites, and publishing content at low or negligible cost. This means more advertising space can be created at low cost.
The second was wider accessibility and higher speed of the internet with the arrival of the broadband: bandwidth prices have gone down from $1000/mbps to less than $20/mbps. This has meant a larger audience, who are able to browse a large number of pages, and hence advertisements, in a short space of time.
Moreover, the audience stays online longer because of the sheer speed and convenience of the medium. The internet has truly become a mass medium with two out of three people in the US surfing the internet, and a whole lot of the population, especially the youth, spending longer on the internet than on watching television.
Thirdly, advertising strategies have matured in that the internet is no longer considered only a space which would provide for click-through purchases, but also opportunities for long-term brand-building. In the words of Greg Stuart, president of Interactive Advertising Bureau: "Internet advertising is without question taking share from the other media at this time and for good reason-marketers have figured out that online advertising is often the most cost-effective medium for influencing both branding and sales results." (Olsen, 2004)
This brings us to our fourth reason for the establishment of the internet as an advertising medium: cost effectiveness. It is cheaper to place an ad on the internet than it is to run it in on the television or print media. One obvious example is the election campaigns run by the presidential candidates: while there are ads on TV and print, a whole host of candidates have chosen to go the internet advertising route, and possibly none has ignored the internet altogether.
Right now, the internet as an advertising medium is competing with the traditional media not only because of its cost-effectiveness and an increased reach, but also because it has a potential that the television and print media do not.