While Ballmer’s projections might be hyperbole, I think that they may wake up a few offline marketers who are falsely comfortable in the knowledge that the Net has yet to topple them despite dire warnings in the past. I don’t agree with Ballmer that ALL ads will have an online component, but I would say that MOST will.
1. ROI Marketing is about to hit a tipping point: There is a strong move towards accountability of all major business expenses. Marketing won’t be spared from the drive to measurability and accountability. CxO’s are asking tough questions like “What do I get for my ad dollar?” and “Did this campaign make or cost us money?” These are questions that traditional “awareness” marketing can’t answer except anecdotally. Marketers will be forced to adopt direct response models in order to justify their budgets and their jobs. Once enough people move this way, everyone will suddenly make the switch because their careers will be on the line if they don’t learn to go with the ROI flow.
2. The Net is a perfect response tool: As companies look for ways to measure marketing ROI, more and more cross channel marketing will be directed towards the Net (and inbound call centers which I also expect to do well). Search Engine Marketing is catching fire because marketers who “get direct” see that they can now build testable, trackable campaigns online and that means budgets will be diverted from less measurable channels. And as we get smarter about what works and what online marketing is worth, watch for other DM channels to have to fight for attention and ad dollars. Response marketers look for the most cost effective channel, and if it’s the Net, say goodbye outbound telemarketing and direct mail.
3. The Next Generation is a Net Generation: We’ve already seen reports that young males are “missing” from the TV audience figures. Look for today’s young adults — raised in a web-based, multi-tasking world to become the core consumers of the next decade, meaning that the Net will be a natural place to find consumers in their peak buying years.
4. All bits move to the Net: In six to ten years I’m sure that the majority of voice, TV, radio, music, and movies will be entering our homes over a Net connection. So for example, while we may not think of telemarketing as Net Marketing, the calls will undoubtedly be Voice Over IP by then.