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Subject: Re: UKNM: ..end of the personal touch? (long fiction alert)
From: Jim Sterne
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 12:08:37 GMT

At 12:28 PM 10/22/98 , Ray Taylor wrote:

>And as for robots doing the work, I have already said that I'm all in favour
>of it. But people who are in the technology business ought to try to
>understand the relative values of a useful tool, and the craftsman who
>wields it.

On that note, I figured it was time to toss a fiction bomb
into the mix and see the reaction. This bit is from a book
I wrote in 1997 called What Makes People Click. It's the
bit of fluff I like to put at the end of each of my books.
This one was about advertising online:

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

Online Real Time Datastream Control

Looking through an eyeglass-weight display, barking out instructions and
data glove-encased hands, tomorrow's ad maestro manipulates the reach, the
frequency, and message delivered to millions of surfers in real time.

Our maestro sits at the virtual command center located anywhere a phone cell
can hear her. The display shows levels of response across multiple sites to
multiple banners from multiple profile types. With a push of a virtual button,
a literal blink of an eye, the promotion balance is adjusted.

The image of the control panel resembles the angled table of an old analog
recording studio. Dozens of knobs line up across a field of vertical slots,
waiting for a touch to send them higher or lower. But these do not control the
amplitude of the signal coming in. They control the types of people the
is going out to.

Each has a label floating over it that grows in brightness the higher the knob
is set. The labels include auto, business, college, computer, education,
entertainment, health, home, and more.

In the background, where musicians would have played and sang, hovers a
mathematical grid, a rubber sheet, waiting to be pulled and stretched by
generated results. It is black and at rest.

The product for this session is WebSim business gaming software. It
simulates a
Web site and puts the player in the Webmaster hot seat. Can you make your
navigation easy enough? Can you keep it updated frequently enough to keep
return visitors returning on the stingy budget you had to spread over servers,

artists, Net connectivity, and Java programmers?

The maestro reaches for the sliders. As she sets each knob, a chart on the far
side of the rubber sheet duplicates her choices with vertical, colored bars
indicating the selected profile. She sets Computers to 80, Internet to 100,
Business to 40. Then she reaches for Entertainment and slides the knob up to
the 60 mark, watching the blue bar on the far wall follow her movement

She selects from a quiver of banners; a cross-segment marketing message aimed
at everybody-the baseline. She tosses the banner toward the rubber sheet and
nods as it rises and comes to rest up above, hanging motionless.

WebSim You're the Webmaster Click
Compete for Prizes The Perfect Learning Environment Here!

Above and to the left, three gray zeros linger-the banners to be displayed
the clickthroughs received, and the response rate as a percent of
exposures. To
the right, she dials in a gray 10,000 - the number of images to be shown in
this first test run. At the lower-right, the session budget of $82,800
challenges her to deliver.

At the bottom-left are the figures that show the degree to which the average
clicker follows the banner's path to the final goal of downloading the

She is set. It is time.

She runs through the numbers one more time and decides she really needs to net
$5,000 for this session. It would only take a day, but with all the prep time
she put into it, the banner artwork she envisioned and paid for, and the fact
that the non-complete penalty was going to come out of her pocket meant she
at risk. She deserved the reward, but it wouldn't come easy.

Why had she said she could double the response they got through direct mail?
She had still been glowing after her big win with the bond-fund company. She
had read the Wall Street Journal cover to cover for three weeks and just knew
Alan Greenspan was going to make a move. She had that one wired. She walked
away with a big smile on her face and hefty commission.

This one didn't have that kind of background to it. It was just another new
software package in a sea of new software packages. Their mailing numbers were
pretty good and that made them harder to beat.

They had sent out 90,000 pieces over three runs at a cost of $69,300. They got
a 3% response rate and followed up by sending a package costing $5 to each of
the 2,700 responders. The data entry, the diskette, the quick-start guide, the
postage. It added up. All told, they spent $82,800 at a cost of $31.66 each.
Not bad as far as the cost of leads goes.

"I'll take the same budget and return twice the response. You make your
software and documentation available on your Web site and I'll get people to
download it. I'll create all the promotional materials, and personally place
the banners. And my fee will be included."

They took her up on her offer.

The maestro gives one last look at the budget counter and prays for a break.
She is set. It is time.

A handle to her left resembles the brake lever on a San Francisco cable car.
She moves it forward without hesitation and watches the impressions counter

ratchet down to zero. On the ad banner network she's using, 10,000 impressions
is but the work of a moment.

The results of her efforts gleam from the meters.

Impressions 10,000
Clicks 200
Downloads 1

Only a half a percent who clicked bothered to get the software!? She had
successfully ignored the knot in the pit of her stomach up until now. Then she
spots the telling number. Average level of depth: 1. It takes three clicks to

She snaps her fingers and the entire display is gone, replaced by the bridge
page on the client's Web site, the page to which a clickthrough takes you. It
looks fine. It's not the problem.

She flips the goggles up onto her head and looks into her own, physical
on her desk. She types in the URL for the bridge page and waits. The wait

She clicks a picture of her client and settles herself while she waits again,
this time for him to answer the call.

"Well, if it isn't the bionic woman! Nice hat. When are you going to start the
banners rolling?"

"I thought I had. When are you going to free up the load on your server?"

"What are you talking about? Our server's fine."

"Wrong. Check it out on an outside line and see what the rest of the world is

"Okay, Okay, give me-a-second-to-switch-to.... Oh, my."

"Oh, your."

"Hang on. Okay, I killed it. It was a backup!"

"At two in the afternoon? What's the matter, can't you tell your AM and your

"That's very strange. Why would somebody be messing with the time of day?"

"The same people who are fixing your Millennium Bug?"


"Please, there's a lady telepresent."

She flips the goggles back down and waves her colleague adieu. Another snap of
the fingers reconstitutes the controls. With a quick glance at the interest
levels of clickers, she makes a small adjustment to the sliders and gives the
lever another full-throttle shove.

This time she listens more carefully to the telltale pitch. The clickrate
is a tad higher - that's good - but in the several minutes it takes to run
through another 10,000 impressions, she only hears that sweet little bell ding
three times. The numbers tell the story. Three percent clickthrough, of which
only one percent downloaded.

She gives herself one more test run before opening the floodgates and some
is needed. The bridge page loads fine. The license agreement page loads fine.
The download page loads fine. But you have to scroll two clicks down to the
download button. Why hadn't she caught that before?

She grabs at the helpful, friendly, warm, and charming top paragraph and
it to below the precious download buttons. She smiles and runs the third
The software retrieval rate goes up to one and a half percent. She smiles. The
clickthrough rate is still at 3%. She frowns.

A quick calculation. She has used up a half of one percent of her budget and
realized a tenth of a percent of her target. This is not good. The knot makes
itself known. She studies the surfer interest profiles with all of her

The rubber sheet is now distended into a shape like the Matterhorn after too
many martinis. There are two of them. She has a large enough sample to spot

problem. Those interested in computers responded nicely. Those interested in
the Internet responded very well. Those with a thing for business were
abysmally indifferent and the entertainment crowd was stretched up to where
black sheet had gone through all of the other colors and reached a white snowy
peak at the top.

It is time to adjust, and to let out the throttle a little. She sets the
interest sliders accordingly and re-dials the impressions to 200,000. She
rummages through her quiver of banners.

Master The Web Forget Quake Click
WebSim - Puts YOU Here!
In The WebMaster's Seat

She eases the trolley car lever forward. She wants to feel the response

It takes longer to run through these banners. She listens as the response rate
resonance turns melodious and the sweet download bell sounds more like a
telephone than a tentative patron at an empty bakery. When it's over, she
starts to relax a bit. A four percent clickthrough with a two percent

She realizes she didn't trust her gut. They told her this game was for older
folks. Business people looking for a tutorial. They said the gaming crowd as
defined by most banner networks were kids. Teeny boppers who wanted to play
shoot 'em up, blast 'em, and watch 'em bleed games.

She knew better. Kids are savvy. Now is the time to prove it. She reaches in
her quiver and grabs a bright orange, animated, in-your-face-ad and tosses it
into position

Quake Is For Flakes - Master The Web w/WebSim Click
Show 'em What You're Made Of NOW!
YOU run the server, design the pages, win the prizes.

Time for the big guns. She steadies herself, dials the impressions to
one-point-five million and eases the level into play. A smile dances
across her face. The timbre rises. The sweet bells of the telephone ringing
settle into a steady tone. The sound of the emergency broadcast network on the
radio that signals all is well.

The noise finally quiets and the results are good. She's burned through 42% of
her cash and only brought in 36% of the downloads, but she has a secret weapon
on her side: frequency.

She dials up two million banners. She hits the full repeat button for full
frequency and knows she has the numbers she needs, even before she starts. At
the 5,400 download mark a small light blinks and the music halts. There's no
need to buy any more banner space. She met the contract. The rest goes into

The next morning she doesn't need to report to her client, they'll know when
they look at their server logs. She need only e-mail the invoice.

There was even enough left over to fix up her own Web site a little. She could
hire some outside help. Maybe she'd wait until the WebSim contest was over and
make the winner an offer.

Jim Sterne Target Marketing of Santa Barbara
jsterneattargeting [dot] com http://www.targeting.com
Author, Speaker, Consultant +1 805-965-3184
Internet Marketing & Customer Service Strategy Consulting

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  Re: UKNM: Scrounge ;-), Dom Graveson

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