An Internet advertisement is typically placed on the Web page of a Web site. (Novak et al., 1996) classify Web advertisement sites into three major categories: (1) sponsored content site such as Hotwired and ZD Net, (2) sponsored search agents and directories such as Yahoo!, Excite and InfoSeek, and (3) entry portal sites such as Netscape and Microsoft. In 1996, the above three categories had 55%, 36% and 19% respectively of the total Web advertisements (Jupiter, 1996). From the advertiser’s point of view, AOL is currently a very attractive Web site because of its very high membership. Increasingly, the Web pages of search engines and entry portals are becoming very popular Web advertisement spots. Web advertisements can be grouped into two major classes – the pull advertisements and the push advertisements which are discussed in the following sections.
- Pull Advertisements
The pull advertisements are those which appear on Web pages selected by the Web user. While navigating a Web session, the user chooses the action to be taken on any advertisement that is displayed. Thus a user can choose to interact with the advertisement, click on the advertisement for further information or just ignore the advertisement. Following are some of the popular pull advertisements.
Banners: Banner ads are small, usually rectangular boxes that appear near the top of the Web pages (Figure 3). The messages are like the roadside billboards, but animated and interactive. Banner ads are primarily used for off-the-shelf products. Some banners, called “virtual tags”, present offers to users and allow them to complete the buying process without having to leave the site of the publisher (Zeff et al., 1997).
A modification of this allows users to play games in the banner area without forcing the user to change from the current Web site. An example of this was the AT&T’s Olympic promotion advertisement. Banners are currently the most popular form of Web advertisement.
Buttons: Button ads are smaller than banner ads and are usually at the bottom of a Web page (Figure 4). Buttons contain only the name of a company or a brand. Clicking on the button takes the Web visitor to the corporate Web site of the company or brand.
Buttons initially were from software companies and allowed Web users to freely download software by just clicking on the button. A popular button in this category is that of Netscape, the “Netscape Now” button. Buttons are simple and have been a great success in leading users to software developers’ products. Buttons can be used to build brand awareness because of their constant presence on the Web pages (Zeff et al., 1997).
Advertorial: Advertorial is Web advertising designed to blend with the editorial content of the Web page publisher (Zeff et al., 1997). For example, the advertisement of the on-line bookstore, Amazon (http://www.amazon.com), appears on the review pages of Word (http://www.word.com). This is intended to attract the attention of the readers of the review if they prefer to order the reviewed book.
Keyword Ads: Advertisers can link a specific ad to a text or subject matter that is searched by a visitor. These ads are primarily found on Web search-engine sites. For example, the advertisement shown in Figure 5 is displayed when a search on keyword “college” is done on Yahoo!
Interstitials: These ads are like television ads with video and audio. When users click on a specific topic at a site, a separate window pops up with the advertisement related to that topic. For example, clicking on “nutrition” at the health site Phys.com of Conde Nast, pops up an animated ad for Sunny Delight drink of Procter & Gamble. However, since consumer expectations are ill-formed with respect to intrusive advertisements, organizations should exercise caution while using this form.
Destination Sites: These ads create a new channel by using information and entertainment values to pull users in and bring them back again. For example, Metlife Insurance Company provides advice on parenting as well as various insurance products at its destination site (http://www.metlife.com).
3.3.2 Push Advertisements
There is now a new way of delivering information to the Web user using push technology. Push technology allows publishers to broadcast to the user (push) rather than wait for the user to initiate the session. This is also called Webcasting. A popular push vehicle is the e-mail, which is used to send promotional information to a list of users appearing on an address list. Since e-mail is text based, it’s use as a promotional material is limited. Further, context, relevance and clutter will determine consumer reactions to unsolicited messages.
Now we have push systems that enable a Web user to sign up and receive broadcasts of news and information on her/his computer. These channels serve as new vehicles to carry Web advertisements. As the user provides personal information to subscribe to the push services, marketers can use the personal profile of the user to target advertisements.
PointCast (http://www.pointcast.com) is one such push service which delivers the updated news and information as screensaver. BackWeb (http://www.backWeb.com) is another push service, and uses the network idle time for updating and delivering through a flash, running titles or as a screensaver.
Advertising, though popular, is not the only promotion strategy on the Internet. Organizations are building online store-fronts, also called the virtual store-fronts, to promote as well as sell the products on the Internet. In the following section, we will discuss the characteristics and the potential of virtual store-fronts for product promotion.