Marketing executives in television work with a relatively stable advertising medium. In many ways, the television ads aired today are similar to those aired two decades ago. Most television ads still feature actors, still run 30 or 60 seconds, and still show a product. However, the differing dynamics of the Internet pose unique challenges to advertisers, forcing them to adapt their practices and techniques on a regular basis.
In the early days of Internet marketing, online advertisers employed banner and pop-up ads to attract customers. These techniques reached large audiences, generated many sales leads, and came at a low cost. However, a small number of Internet users began to consider these advertising techniques intrusive and annoying. Yet because marketing strategies relying heavily on banners and pop-ups produced results, companies invested growing amounts of money into purchasing these ad types in hopes of capturing market share in the burgeoning online economy. As consumers became more sophisticated, frustration with these online advertising techniques grew. Independent programmers began to develop tools that blocked banner and pop-up ads. The popularity of these tools exploded when the search engine Google, at the time an increasingly popular website fighting to solidify its place on the Internet with giants Microsoft and Yahoo, offered free software enabling users to block pop-up ads. The backlash against banner ads grew as new web browsers provided users the ability to block image-based ads such as banner ads. Although banner and pop-up ads still exist, they are far less prominent than during the early days of the Internet.
A major development in online marketing came with the introduction of pay-per-click ads. Unlike banner or pop-up ads, which originally required companies to pay every time a website visitor saw an ad, pay-per-click ads allowed companies to pay only when an interested potential customer clicked on an ad. More importantly, however, these ads circumvented the pop-up and banner blockers. As a result of these advantages and the incredible growth in the use of search engines, which provide excellent venues for pay-per-click advertising, companies began turning to pay-per-click marketing in droves. However, as with the banner and pop-up ads that preceded them, pay-per-click ads came with their drawbacks. When companies began pouring billions of dollars into this emerging medium, online advertising specialists started to notice the presence of what would later be called click fraud: representatives of a company with no interest in the product advertised by a competitor click on the competitor's ads simply to increase the marketing cost of the competitor. Click fraud grew so rapidly that marketers sought to diversify their online positions away from pay-per-click marketing through new mediums.
Although pay-per-click advertising remains a common and effective advertising tool, marketers adapted yet again to the changing dynamics of the Internet by adopting new techniques such as pay-per-performance advertising, search engine optimization, and affiliate marketing. As the pace of the Internet's evolution increases, it seems all the more likely that advertising successfully on the Internet will require a strategy that shuns constancy and embraces change.