Opinion - Face-to-face is best way to sell the Internet

Deckchairs. Man in white suit. Men in black suits. Sunny Slough. Running dog.

Deckchairs. Man in white suit. Men in black suits. Sunny Slough. Running dog.

Making any sense to you? Don't worry, it's not meant to. They're just some of the recent crop of TV ads for dotcoms trying to build a loyal customer base - or in new-economy speak, a community.

It appears that the more obscure the message, the better these ads must do in research. But perhaps this is more a story of classically trained marketing directors being allowed to play like they never have before?

Or people who have no experience of running marketing campaigns naively trusting their agencies to do the right thing.

While I don't consider myself a traditionalist, I do believe there are some things that experience can teach us. Like if you're trying to establish a new product category, there are three things you have to do. First, say what the product is. Second, tell people why they need it. And, most importantly, brand the message. Once you've done all that, then you can bring out the deckchairs and the men in suits.

So why am I banging on about this in a magazine that covers the event industry? Well as we all know, the live medium is great for explaining complexity. It's the best learning medium there is. You can tell and show people things they'll never forget.

We're told the problem for the majority of people who don't use the Web is that they're put off by the unknown. Some people glibly summarise this as technophobia. But perhaps the unknown is more about not understanding what you're going to get out of the technology rather than the technology itself. If I'm not sure how I'm going to benefit, why should I bother?

Sitting down and talking to people about what they can get out of the Web might be the start most people need. Once they understand the benefits, telling people how to use the Web - how to buy things, how to surf - might just get a little bit easier. And doesn't that sound like a better use of the marketing budget than obscurely preaching to the converted?

Colin Hatfield is director and co-founder of design agency In Real Life.

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