Interactive Internet Training Workshop Web Archives

MAP-EXTRA: ADVERTISING ON THE INTERNET

Posted by: Patrick Douglas Crispen
Date Mailed: Wednesday, November 16th 1994 06:30 AM

MAP-EXTRA: ADVERTISING ON THE INTERNET


     "They all laughed when I sat down at the piano, but oh!, when I
      began to play ..." -- John Caples, legendary advertisement for
      mail-order piano lessons, 1925


This lesson is not in the syllabus, but I thought it would be a neat
follow-up to MAP09: Spamming and Urban Legends.

Things change rapidly on the net, perhaps no more rapidly than in the
area of advertising, but there are a few general principles that
are likely to stay put for a while.

First, generally speaking, don't.  If you work for a company that makes
a product, you'll draw more flames than orders if you try to use the net
to advertise that product.

ADVERTISING THAT'S OK.

There are a couple of exceptions.  In some musical groups, very few
people will object if you advertise a home-made or home-distributed
recording your band has made (but see below for exceptions).  And if
you have *one* computer or bicycle to sell, it's OK to advertise it in
the appropriate Usenet newsgroup (e.g., misc.forsale.computers.pc-clone,
rec.bicycles.marketplace).  If you have a warehouse full of computers
or bikes and you're in the business of selling them, that's probably
over the line.

A second exception is on the Web.  If your company has a homepage,
websurfers who call it up would be offended if you *didn't* have
information on your products, distributors, and so on.

A third exception is if somebody asks an technical question such
as "Who makes an Ada compiler for the MIL-STD-1750A processor?" it's
generally considered OK to answer "We do" and to give a point of
contact.  Just make sure your posting is information, not ad copy.
Often the person answering will say something like "Blatant commercial
plug:" so he's not accused of being deceptive.

DECEPTION.

Deception is another matter entirely.  There's a new form of
advertising that's showing up on some of the musical newsgroups.
Someone will post a message giving a rave review of the new CD by
group X.  A while later he'll rave about group Y and artist Z.  It
turns out that the only thing he ever has to say are rave reviews
of new CDs.  And all the artists he raves about record for the same
major label.  After not too much detective work it turns out that
our hero works for (now let's not always see the same hands) the
record label.

It's not restricted to musical groups, either.  A well-known
scenario has person A ask a question like "what's the best product
to do W?"  Shortly afterward, person B replies that the new offering
P from R Software solves that problem, is cheap and easy to install,
and everybody should have one.  A while later on another group A
reappears with another question, and sure enough, product Q from R
Software is the answer to the world's ills.

I haven't the slightest idea why a company would risk earning a
reputation for unethical dealings, but if you're sleazy enough to
think these are good ideas, please be aware that there are folks on
the net who delight in exposing scams of this sort, and you'll be
found out in short order.

APPROPRIATE FORUMS.

Sending out email to every listserv and Usenet newsgroup has already
been covered in MAP09 Spamming and Urban Legends.  Don't do it.  There
are companies who sell mailing lists of email addresses.  I find the
prospect of junk-email frightening: there are companies and organizations
who would pull their workers off the net rather than subject them
to such misuse of company resources.

And you hardly need to be told that advertising a bicycle for sale
in rec.arts.marching.drumcorps or talk.politics.tibet is a waste
of time.

But there's a subtler point.  Many of the Usenet hierarchies have a
special "marketplace" newsgroup.  It's safe to assume that any related
group does NOT want ads.  For example, there's a newsgroup called
rec.music.makers.marketplace and it's a good bet that your offer of a
synthesizer for sale will not be welcome on rec.music.makers.synth.

There is a List of Active Newsgroups available on news.answers that
lists the active Usenet newsgroups.  Look there to find out where the
"marketplace" and "forsale" groups are.

When you touch on the sensitive area of advertising it's all too easy
to earn a reputation for being dishonest, when all you really are is
ignorant.  Save your reputation by knowing what the rules are
before you advertise.

RESOURCES.

Net policy and attitudes toward advertising are evolving so rapidly
that his article is virtually guaranteed to be out of date.  Two
articles available on the Unsenet newsgroup news.answers, "swap-guide"
and "Advertising FAQ", discuss some of the cultural issues involved
in buying and selling on the net.

A listserv INET-MARKETING has started in the last few months to discuss
"marketing goods and services in an appropriate way on the Internet".
To join, send a mail message to listproc@einet.net containing

      SUBSCRIBE INET-MARKETING Your Name of Your Organization

Another list at the same site WWWORDER (subscribe similarly) discusses
"practical issues of World-Wide Web order form implication".


   PATRICK DOUGLAS CRISPEN    THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS LETTER DO NOT
    PCRISPE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU      NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE
  THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA      UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA - TUSCALOOSA

      ROADMAP: COPYRIGHT PATRICK CRISPEN 1994. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

   To unsubscribe from ANY Roadmap workshop, send an e-mail letter to
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