By Scott Kirsner | May 2, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO -- Jarvis Coffin moves through the crowded aisles of AdTech, an advertising trade show, like a union boss at the annual picnic. He greets every other person by first name, clasping hands and promising phone calls and e-mails; others wave at him from across the crush.
Coffin is the chief executive and one of the founders of Burst Media in Burlington, a broker of online advertising that has been around since 1995. (The very first Web ad, a banner promoting AT&T, appeared one year before that.) The company's arc, from instant ignition to near flame-out to recent resurrection, has closely traced that of the entire online advertising industry.
Now, thanks to Google's clever method of placing pithy and relevant text ads next to your search results, and an array of flashy new ad formats, advertisers are making the Net a serious part of their marketing strategies. Online ad sales totaled $9.6 billion last year, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, and are expected to hit $12.7 billion in 2004, based on estimates by the research firm eMarketer. Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, who gave a talk at AdTech, observed that online advertising still represents only 3 percent of total US ad spending, calling the Internet 'the most underutilized advertising medium that's out there.'
If 1994 to 2000 were the experimental days of online advertising, with marketers pouring money in to see what worked, and 2001 to 2003 was an interregnum where many dot-com companies vanished and Fortune 1000 companies stepped back to reevaluate their online strategies, then2004 and 2005 represent a resurgence. Consumers are spending more time on the Internet -- hours that tend to be stolen from television -- and they're increasingly connected at high speed. Advertisers have discovered formulas to make Internet advertising pay off, and in the next five years, some of the same companies that developed technologies for delivering and measuring Internet ads will sneak into your TV set, to manage the ads that appear on your TiVo or through your video-on-demand service.