Google paid $3.1 billion for the online advertising company DoubleClick. Microsoft countered by buying aQuantivefor $6 billion. Wall Street thinks they're crazy. You and I know that's cheap. Because you and I are doing most everything online now, and if you want to talk to us, you have to talk on the internet. Why do ad buyers keep pouring money into the old media? Because ad buyers are mostly old.
Television, magazines, and newspapers may be hanging on because they
are more powerful media for reaching the consumers companies most want
to reach. But I suspect they're hanging on for another demographic
reason. Advertising is supposed to be a with-it, hot, trendy,
tomorrow-based industry. But at root, the business of advertising is
one of allocating capital, not cooking up clever jingles. And the
people who make the decisions about how to allocate that $300-odd
billion in capital each year—CEOs of consumer products companies,
Fortune 500executive vice presidents, media buyers, brand
managers, agency heads—well, they're old. It takes time to climb the
corporate ladders to get to the rungs where really important decisions
are made. Of course, these people, most of whom came of age as
consumers in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, use the Internet, spend a lot
of time on it, and buy stuff on it. But they don't understand it
intuitively the way the younger crowd does.
Old advertising buyers don't understand the Internet. They'll read about it in the newspaper eventually, though, while they're thumbing through the obituaries.