Razorfish’s Lanctot: Flexibility’s A Double-Edged Sword For Online; Don’t Count Out Display

As it has for pretty much every industry, this has been a dizzying few weeks for online advertising. Turmoil stemming from the global banking crisis and the volatility in the financial markets has only made the year-long ad recession appear even darker than first anticipated. To get a sense of how digital ad execs are reacting to the dismal economic news as of late, PEHub asked Jeff Lanctot, chief strategy officer for Microsoft’s Razorfish (the Avenue A part of the name was cut off this week), about layoffs, shrinking ad budgets, ad nets and the value of display.
A double-edged sword: The speed and flexibility of online ads is a “blessing and curse.” With most print and TV ad buys locked in months in advance, marketers are taking out the carving knife to online ad budgets simply because it’s easier to adjust spending there. But Lanctot insists that’s just the near-term. As marketers take a broader look at their priorities and where the crucial ROI is, online ad spending will fare better than traditional media. Nevertheless, expectations of online ad spend being flat appear optimistic right now. More on display, ad nets and layoffs after the jump.
Forget click-throughs: While display ad spending has slowed considerably over the past several months, with prospects for greater sluggishness widely anticipated, Lanctot says that display’s virtues haven’t been accurately measured. For one thing, click-through rates are not the best metric. People are not likely to click the first time they see an ad, but like a TV commercial or a roadside billboard, display builds familiarity with a brand, he contends. And above all, Lanctot believes that display’s direct response does represent a concrete action taken by the consumer that will be more appreciated by marketers as the downturn gets deeper.
Boom times end for ad nets: The feeling that a glut existed around remnant ad nets would soon lead to consolidation and death for many operators has been expected for a while. Lanctot’s take: “There are probably more than 300 ad networks up and running and they aren