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30 November 2008
Dumb and dumber providers
ISPs’ pathetic struggle to be more than just infrastructure providers
is also much easier and cheaper to get from a
specialist third-party company.
So internet service providers ‘fear’ being
dumb pipe providers. They are fixated on
the irritatingly over-used and nebulous term
‘content. T’ o admen, content is the bit that
fills the gaps between commercials. It covers
the bit of the newspaper that didn’t manage
to attract full or quarter page ads. To ISPs,
content is a wonderful holy grail that will
make them billions of dollars.
But who wants to buy TV programmes from
their electricity company? Or have the water-
works trying to flog them bath sponges? Util-
Dumb pipes ity companies are there to provide basic utili-
Why are you bothering me? ties. Gas. Water. Power. Broadband. The ISPs’
I don’t want your content dumb despair is as ludicrous as your plumber
How about lettin’ me be?* lying awake at night fretting that all he does is
fix your cistern and not leave you reading ma-
ISPS ARE desperate to be more than dumb terial to jazz up your lavatory experience.
pipes, passively ferrying data from third party Because ‘content’—i.e. the kind of material
websites to their customers. They want in on that makes broadband bills worthwhile—is a
the action. The ad money. The slice of the pie. whole different ballgame from a utility busi-
And so DullTel and MobiBore spend mil- ness. The problem with the average small
lions of dollars creating walled cyber gardens single-country ISP is that—unlike YouTube, or
named things like ZooParty! or FunZone!, try- a movie studio—it doesn’t have the entire web
ing to get internet users to stick with them and population as a potential audience, or even
not pass through the virtual gate to the Wild content-generator, for all the material they hope
World Web at large. to monetise. ISPs just have their customers.
Of course, as well as getting a share of ad Has there ever been a survey done to find
dollars, it’s cheaper for ISPs to serve data out if anyone has ever chosen an ISP based
cached on their own servers, rather than on content, rather than speed or cost or reli-
freshly baked goods from the global e-village. ability? It’s time they stopped trying to turn
In the olden days (10 years ago) they did pro- bitstreams into revenue streams and got on
vide more services, such as email and hosting. with their basic business.
Now everyone uses Gmail and its ilk, so they * To the tune of “Dumb Dog” from
can get gigs of free space and keep their email Annie (
address even if they dump their ISP. Hosting watch?v=k79frpuZs1M ). Click at your peril.
The death knell for ‘silly spending’
Steven Vaile, CEO of H2O New Media, says the days
of throwing money at unmeasured media are over
WITH BELTS being tightened across the region Middle East marketers will start to dictate
and reports of headcount reductions in some requirements to the media agencies they
of the region’s largest property and construc- are working with. There should be a shift to
tion engineering concerns, the era of “silly performance-based models, such as cost-
spending” is—hopefully—coming to an end. per-lead, combined with more measurable,
What has been going on is simply not targeted media platforms like customised
sustainable: The rush for billboard space at social media models which allow a CMO to
hugely inflated rates, the page advertising measure the return on investment of their
rates equivalent to US or EU titles with ten marketing dollar in client data acquisition
times the circulation, and near impossible and sales leads.
measurement figures for radio, television, And the media agencies need to change
outdoor and print—combined with the on- their modus operandi. Media is changing,
coming market correction—will drive CMOs and the Middle East—supported by the boom
to consider more frugal, well-measured, in- in page advertising and outside media cre-
telligent alternatives. ated by an inflated property market—has
Marketers that turn around to their board been operating on models that are five years
and ask for a couple of million for display and behind the Western world. Until the region’s
outdoor advertising face being laughed out of large media companies actually bring some-
their well paid jobs. Marketing spend is the first thing to the table in terms of measurable and
to be scrutinised when trying to shrink budgets meaningful reach then they continue to play
and that means the CMO needs to prove his second fiddle to the more nimble—and cost
department’s benefit—that starts with mea- effective—online platforms. Media compa-
surement, measurement and measurement. nies need to find hybrid models that embrace
Businesses do not survive on brand recog- online measurement for offline campaigns.
nition alone. They need to sell. And in tough Creativity in campaign planning needs to
times this is always the focus. Sales teams that improve as well. Media agencies must adapt
once got by selling just enough to justify their and start to develop innovative campaigns
existence are shown the door, while the CMO that deliver the goods. Embrace market
now becomes responsible for feeding the pre- changes or face going to the wall. It really is
vious star performers with executable leads. that serious.
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