Advertising History

The 90s Aren’t Just Back in Fashion

“This agreement is a great complement to our pending relationship with The Walt Disney Company and its family of broadcast brands such as Disney, ABC News and ESPN. The convergence of the Internet and television media has the potential to empower the consumer like no other media in history.”

That statement was from Harry Motro, president and CEO of Infoseek in 1998, discussing the upfront search deal with WebTV, acquired by Microsoft at the time of the deal.  For $26MM, Infoseek was guaranteed 4.5BN impressions ($5.77 eCPM).  Taking into consideration that the deal happened in 1998 and on a new platform, the eCPM isn’t too outrageous. Yes, it was a Search deal sold on an impression basis, but getting past that it seems that the ‘Digital Upfront’ happened way before the recent ‘New Front’ movement. My Twitter feed was filled in the last few weeks with details of The New Front, Social TV, etc. Much of the industry topics today were hot in the 90s.

I took a look at the Internet Archive to test my theory a bit further. Outside of terrible website designs, I ran across Microsoft’s “New to the Internet Tutorial”.  It was all quite boring until I ran across a few sentences that I found entertaining, “Because it is very easy to publish on the web, many individuals have set up personal ‘home pages’, pages about themselves and their interests, pictures of themselves, and more. Some even have pointers to what they are wearing in the office that day or their pet.”  I have a Tumblr page of my daily outfits I wear to work, I have a few page dedicated to pictures also known as Facebook and Instagram, and what would the internet world be with LOLcats?

Current advertising executions look a lot slicker than the 90s with Rich Media, Pre-rolls, etc. As I was doing my Barbara Walters-esque type of investigation, I found an animated GIF ad on from May 5, 1997. My friends and I used to send each other funny YouTube videos, but lately my email has been riddled with animated GIFs.  Yes, it seems HD streaming video is no match for pixelated, 3 second long animations with witty captions in my circle of friends.  I’m not saying there’s about to be a wave of animated GIF ads from Coca Cola and Buick, but I do think it’s rather interesting that attention-grabbing humor is format agnostic in Digital.

Although our industry should be proud of its advances, we should look back on those truly maverick days of the 90s when the World Wide Web had no Best Practices.  Maybe the 90s are back – the Backstreet Boys are back together, crop tops are in again,  we consider a 140 character post during a TV spot as the convergence of Internet and TV, and we still take pictures of ourselves on personal ‘home pages’ as Microsoft futuristically proclaimed.  We can either embrace the 90s again or create a new decade of Digital Advertising that we’ll probably revisit in 20 years.

Hey, Skeet Ulrich – call me. I’m legal now.