REALITY CHECK: Just because an ad is brilliant doesn't mean it works
Cramer: You mean Compostheap.com? They didn't understand that everyone on the Web is in business, just like Wal-Mart and Home Depot are in business. Every day, a new one of those off-line ads goes by, and most of them are just stupid. Somebody has money in the bank, gets nervous having it there, and decides to spend into oblivion. It makes me laugh because it doesn't work.
Johnson: They're all trying to stand out in a noisy crowd. They've all got enough money to make it through Christmas, and they've got to make enough of a hit to keep going. Some campaigns are working and some aren't. One that worked last year was Monster.com, which did a Super Bowl ad that had a significant impact on its traffic. Now everyone is hoping for the same thing.
Leonsis: Young dot-com companies killing themselves to advertise during the Super Bowl is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. They should be focused instead on their service and delivery instead of dropping their dollars on TV ads.
Hazard: You need to do something different and creative to be heard above the noise. Look at the success of Ameritrade with its guy Stuart. And Send.com, with its character the Giver. That is truly a personality, and it really is driving business. If you're able to create a personality and convey a message, it helps you be heard.
Peabody: Off-line advertising is absolutely crucial. Internet companies need to get more people to their sites. Traditional companies going on the Web can use the advertising they already do. Kmart can just stick Kmart.com on the bottom of all its magazine ads.
To help us deconstruct the myths of the Web, we turned to expert observers of the Internet phenomenon. Their comments can be found after each of the case studies we presented. Here are their credentials:
Martin Anderson, management professor at Babson College, in Wellesley, Mass., advises executives who are transforming their traditional companies into "click and mortar" businesses.
James J. Cramer is the brash cofounder of and columnist at TheStreet.com. He has built successful careers as both a journalist/pundit and a hedge-fund manager.
Kathleen Eisenhardt is a professor specializing in competitive strategy at Stanford's School of Engineering. She recently coauthored Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos.
Chip Hazard is a general partner and E-commerce specialist at the venture powerhouse Greylock, in Boston. He helped launch the e-Steel exchange.
Tod Johnson, chairman and CEO of Media Metrix Inc., based in New York City, is a widely recognized expert on brand loyalty.
Ted Leonsis is president of AOL Interactive Properties Group. In his first three years at America Online (starting in 1994), it grew from about $100 million in revenues to $1.5 billion.
Kelly Mooney is director of intelligence at Resource Marketing Inc., a technology-marketing firm in Columbus, Ohio. She has helped companies such as Victoria's Secret develop their on-line strategies.
Allen Morgan is a general partner at Mayfield Fund, in Menlo Park, Calif. He has been involved in more than 350 venture-capital investments and public offerings.
Bo Peabody is a cofounder of Tripod Inc. and vice-president of network strategy at Lycos Inc. When he was still in college, Peabody founded Tripod, which helps people build their own home pages. In 1998 he sold the company to Lycos.
Scott Randall is founder and CEO of Internet-auction hosting service FairMarket Inc. Randall has been involved in E-commerce since 1995, when he launched an on-line store. He has been president of the Internet Shopping Network and Yahoo Marketplace.
David Rich is vice-president of marketing and brand guru at Bigstep.com, which provides on-line services to small businesses. He previously orchestrated brand campaigns for Walt Disney, Pepsi, and Jamba Juice.