Introducing Introductory Advertising Students
to the World Wide Web
Submitted for consideration for the 1995 Conference of the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Teaching Standards -- Research In Brief
Beth E. Barnes, Ph.D.
School of Communications
Pennsylvania State University
203 Carnegie Building
University Park, PA 16802
as of 8/1/95:
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
215 University Place
Syracuse, NY 13244
Introducing Introductory Advertising Students
to the World Wide Web
While students at major universities may have access to the World Wide Web
via campus computer labs, many have yet to take advantage of the Web's
offerings. Regular demonstrations of Web sites were incorporated into
introductory advertising course to pique students' interest in the
This paper discusses how Web site visits were incorporated into
and the students' evaluation of the Web site component of the course.
Introducing Introductory Advertising Students
to the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web (the Web) is a user-friendly on-ramp to the information
superhighway. The Web uses hypermedia technology to produce attractive
combinations of text, graphics, and sound (Levine & Baroudi, 1993).
Individuals and companies have established sites on the Web, known as
pages," where they provide information on a seemingly endless array of
products, services, and interest areas. Users typically access the Web
through navigational software packages like Mosaic or Netscape, which
facilitate both random browsing and directed searching for Web sites.
While advertisers' use of the Internet has been limited because of the
strictures of netiquette, which frowns on self-promotion, the Web
way of getting around such difficulties ("Making moves," 1995).
Advertisers can establish a home page and then wait for interested computer
users to come to them. Advertising Age and Adweek both run regular
reports detailing advertiser and advertising agency presence on the Web, a
sign of the medium's growing importance to the advertising community.
Although advertising interest in the Web is high, consumer usage is still
relatively low. Global Internet usage is estimated at 25 million
while fewer than 3 million people are estimated to be using the Web
("Making moves," 1995). Still, the potential of the Web as an advertising
medium is strong enough to merit attention in an advertising
This paper reports the results of one method of introducing the Web in
introductory advertising course.
The introductory advertising course at a large northeastern university is
taught in one section of ninety to one hundred students each semester.
students in the class are all undergraduates; approximately one-half are
advertising majors while the rest come from a variety of majors across
university. For advertising majors, the course is their first
the discipline. It is the only advertising course open to non-majors.
The instructor first began to incorporate an interactive computer element
into the class during the 1993-94 academic year. Each student in the
course was given a computer account to use to communicate with the
instructor via electronic mail and to provide access to the university's
word processing facilities for preparation of class assignments. Each
semester, a handful of students (around five or six) took advantage of
e-mail access to the instructor, sending messages with questions about
tests and assignments. The majority of students used their account only
for word processing.
The university implemented a policy change at the beginning of fall
semester 1994. All students were automatically issued computer accounts,
providing immediate access to e-mail. Instructors may still request
accounts for their classes; those accounts give students access to
dedicated electronic bulletin boards where the instructor can post class
announcements, assignments, and the like.
Despite the policy change and increased open hours at the campus computer
labs that accompanied the move to universal e-mail, students in the
introductory advertising course in fall 1994 continued to make only
sporadic use of e-mail, and anecdotal evidence suggested that their other
computer use was low as well. This particular cohort of students
have been bypassed by the computer revolution. Many of the students
this university come from rural areas where school systems may not
access to computers.
While other courses within the academic unit had begun to require computer
use, those classes were much smaller than the introductory advertising
class. This instructor's intent was not to have every student in the
communicating regularly via e-mail, but rather to pique students' interest
in advertising uses for computer communication, and, by extension, to
encourage the students' own computer use as a means to enhance their
marketability in the communications industries.
Bringing the Web to Students
In spring semester 1995, the introductory class was scheduled into one of
the university's "technology classrooms." These rooms are equipped
dedicated computer terminal linked to a projection unit. The
operates the computer; the screen output is displayed on a large
the front of the room. While students are not able to use the
themselves, they can follow the steps the instructor takes in
information. In this particular classroom, the computer is an IBM
which is networked into the university's Gopher system. The computer
provides Web access via both Mosaic and Netscape. A similar
is available to students in the university's computer labs on both IBM
Apple equipment, and on their personal computers via modem hook-up.
As part of the course orientation on the first day of class, students were
told that they would be seeing examples of interactive advertising
throughout the semester. They were also reminded of their e-mail accounts
and encouraged to check the CLASSNEWS bulletin board for the course
regularly for announcements and other class information.
During the first half of the course, Web demonstrations were only
peripherally related to course content. The instructor was also new at
surfing the Web, and demonstrated sites to students as she discovered
During the seventh week of the semester, as part of a mid-term course
evaluation, students were asked whether they found the Web
interesting and whether they would like them continued. The answer to
questions was an overwhelming "yes." Of the sixty-four students who
completed the evaluation (out of a class of ninety-two students total),
only one indicated that they were not interested in the Web
The students' comments suggested that the demonstrations were helping to
increase their interest in computer-mediated communication. For
one student noted that "I don't get to see the Internet often -- it
new ways of advertising." Another pointed out that "If nothing else,
[the demonstrations] emphasize the importance and practicality of
in today's marketplace." This was new information for the students; one
commented "I'd never even heard of it [the Web] before and neither had
boyfriend, who claims to know mostly everything about computers!"
However, while the students were finding the demonstrations interesting,
several noted that they would like stronger ties between the Web sites
class content. As one put it, "I wish that they [the demonstrations]
slightly more related to advertising (or were more related in some way
something we should know concerning the Internet)." And, echoing a
universal complaint of students, another noted: "I don't see the relevance
of using it so often and not being tested on it."
In response to the students' concerns, the instructor adapted the
demonstrations so that the site(s) visited during the class period served
as examples of that day's lecture topic. Students could learn of
unrelated, sites that the instructor thought they might find
through regular postings of URLs (home page "addresses") on the
In their comments, a number of students requested that the instructor
repeat the instructions for accessing the Web. In subsequent Web
demonstrations, students were shown each step they would need to take to
get into Netscape in the computer lab. The various Web search and
directory functions were also demonstrated so that students would know how
to explore the Web on their own.
Seeing the Sites
This section describes some of the Web sites demonstrated to the class.
Not surprisingly, some sites were more interesting than others and
therefore better able to hold the students' interest. (This was an
important consideration since all of the classroom lights had to be turned
off in order for students to see the display.) They are presented
both as a guide for other instructors and as evidence of the range of
companies making use of the Web.
As mentioned above, early Web site demonstrations were not tied directly
to class content but instead featured sites the instructor thought the
class would enjoy. Among the sites in this group were Club Med
(http://www.hotwired.com/Coin/Spnsrs/ Clubmed/), accessed on a cold, grey
January day; Windham Hill Records (http://www.windham.com/); and Zima
The Club Med home page asks visitors to select either a singles, couples,
or family vacation and then offers suggested destinations for the
option. The listing for a particular property includes a visual of
site, a list of services, any special events, and prices. The visitor
also register to receive a Club Med brochure containing a $50 discount
offer. This site served as a good example of using the Web to generate
database of prospective customers.
The Windham Hill home page features an audio-visual catalog of the
company's New Age and Jazz recordings. Users can hear sample selections
from albums. Another nice feature is a radio station locator, which
a geographic listing of AM and FM stations that play Windham Hill
recordings. The user selects the type of music they are interested in and
provides the abbreviation for their home state. The system quickly
generates a list of station call letters and frequencies. This site showed
an advertiser's attempt to reach a relatively narrow target (since Windham
Hill produces very specialized music) via the Web.
The Zima demonstration was problematic because many students in the class
were underage and the instructor was not interested in promoting
use or abuse. However, several students had seen the site mentioned
Zima's packaging and had requested the demonstration. And, Advertising
had cited Zima's home page as being a good example of a site targeted to
Generation X ("Making moves," 1995). The instructor investigated the
first, and discovered that it was unique in providing a continuing
interactive link between the user and the advertiser via "Tribe Z." The
user registers their e-mail address; once registered, the Zima
"Tribemaster" sends regular e-mail messages with holiday-themed Zima
trivia. The instructor decided that the educational benefit of this
site outweighed her concerns related to the product and so demonstrated
the site. However, no other alcohol-related sites were demonstrated,
despite their prevalence on the Web.
As the instructor spent more time exploring the Web, it became easier to
locate sites that were related to lecture topics. For example, a
designed to give an overview of the advertising campaign development
process was illustrated through commercial reels showing the ads for the
introductions of Saturn and Neon automobiles and the attempt to
Oldsmobile ("This is not your father's Oldsmobile"). After seeing the
the students were shown an auto dealer web site (http://www.dealernet.c
om/) that included advertising messages tied to all three car makes.
Saturn information carried the same theme as the television campaign
expanded on the information in those ads. The Neon information was
well integrated with those television commercials, and the Oldsmobile
information lacked any unifying theme. Consequently, this demonstration
offered a way to show the students the value of speaking with a
voice in all advertising media.
Two web sites were especially useful as part of a discussion of market
segmentation, target marketing, and consumer behavior. To illustrate
geographic segmentation, students saw the home page of Capons Rotisserie
Chicken, a restaurant in the state of Washington
(http://nwlink.com/capons/capons.html). Users can place a delivery
through this web site, but only if they live in Factoria, Capitol
Wallingford, WA. The class spent some time discussing why the
owner might have decided to set up a web site, accessible by all, for
a limited group of users.
The other web site demonstrated in this segment of the course was SRI's
VALS2 home page (http:future.sri.com/vals/ valshome.html). This site
includes an explanation of the VALS2 model and descriptions of each of
VALS2 segments. Most valuable is the actual VALS2 questionnaire.
are invited to complete the questionnaire to find out where they would
classified (and, of course, to build SRI's database). The
this site really seemed to clarify the VALS2 concept for students, making
the abstract concrete.
A number of sites proved useful in the media planning segment of the
course. To begin the discussion of media planning, the class visited
Fallon-McElligott Advertising's home page (http://www.fallon.com/), which
includes a discussion of the agency's media planning philosophy. The
television network's home page (http://www.cbs.com/) was used to
how the broadcast networks are making efforts to better market themselves
to prospective viewers and advertisers. (This page also contains the
lete archive of all of David Letterman's Top 10 lists since he joined
a real draw for the students.)
As part of the lecture on print media, the class discussed some of the
threats to paper-based media related to rising production costs,
demands on consumer time, and decreasing interest in reading. Two Web
sites helped to illustrate this point: the San Jose Mercury News'
Center Net (http://www.sjmercury.com/howtouse.htm) and the electronic
version of Time (http://www.timeinc.com/time/magazine/magazine. html).
Mercury Center Net is an example of a newspaper offering ancillary
services, including electronic classified ads and some display advertising,
to try and attract non-readers. The Time site also raises some
interesting advertising issues because it contains the complete text of the
current issue of the magazine, minus photographs and ads. Does this
decrease the value of an advertiser's investment in the paper version?
Students often take directory advertising for granted. A look at the home
page for the Austin (TX) Internet Yellow Pages (http://www.yp.com/)
started a discussion on the value of display advertising in directories.
There was no display advertising at the Austin site, at least not at
time of our visit, and students did not find the basic company name,
address, and phone number listings particularly interesting.
Finally, we visited another agency site to begin the creative segment of
the course. Chiat-Day's "Idea Factory" (http://www.chiatday.com) is a
heavily visual, creative-driven look at the agency. One feature is a
"game" highlighting different ads from Chiat-Day's campaign for the Nynex
Yellow Pages. Users see the visual and try to guess the caption,
the directory category being illustrated. This was an excellent
introduction to the creative thought process and demonstrated the art of
translating a simple strategy into very effective, creative
Was It Worth the Ride?
Students answered a brief survey about their computer use during the
eleventh week of the semester. This time was chosen because it was late
enough in the semester for students to have had a chance to experiment
the Web and early enough not to conflict with university-mandated
evaluations that are administered during the last few weeks of class. (A
copy of the survey with answer frequencies is included in the
Of the ninety-two students in the class, sixty-six (72%) returned
More than two-thirds of the students reported that they used their
university computer account; the modal responses for frequency of usage
were "several times a week" and "every few weeks" (19.7% each).
surprising, given the continued low incidence of e-mail to the
from students, 90.5% of the students who used their accounts reported
they used the e-mail function regularly. Of the students who reported
they never used their computer accounts, more than half (54.2%) attributed
their behavior to a lack of knowledge of the required software.
The students were also questioned specifically about their usage of the
Web. A little over a third of the students who completed the survey
(34.6%) reported that they had explored Web sites. Of the twenty-four
students in that group, 62.5% said that the reason they had decided to
access the Web for the first time was an interest in one of the sites
instructor had demonstrated in the class. The students did not use
frequently (the modal response was "every few weeks"), but this was not
particularly surprising given the newness of the technology.
The forty-two students who had not accessed the Web reported two major
barriers: lack of knowledge on how to use the required software
and lack of time (31.0%). Several students noted that university
lab attendants were often too busy to demonstrate the Web.
The students' general computer use was in line with the instructor's
expectations. All but three of the sixty-six students reported that they
felt comfortable using word processing computer software. A smaller
(14, or 21.2%) claimed comfort with spreadsheet programs, and only one
student reported using statistical packages. Because some computer
industry observers have linked interest in interactive applications to
computer gaming (Neubecker, 1994), students were also asked whether they
were familiar with game software. Twenty-six students (39.4%)
playing games. Eighty-eight percent of the students in the gamer group
reported using their computer accounts, and half had visited a Web
Students with their own computer showed a somewhat greater tendency to use
their university computer accounts and to visit the Web than students who
did not have their own hardware. Of the twenty-three students who had
their own computer, 78.3% reported using their account and 43.5% had
visited a Web site.
Given these results as well as those of the earlier mid-semester
evaluation, the instructor felt that the Web site demonstrations were
successful. Students reported a strong interest in the Web site visits.
And, over a third of the students reported visiting a Web site on
own, many as a direct result of seeing the demonstrations in class.
Web site demonstrations as used in this class served three major
purposes. The demonstrations introduced the students to the Web, sparked
their interest in using their computer account, and helped to
lecture material. Given the wide-ranging nature of the introductory
course, concrete examples are especially valuable in keeping students'
interest and as a break from rote learning of principles. The
demonstrations also proved to be effective starting points for class
discussions, always a challenge in a class of this size.
Using Web sites as a teaching tool provides another path to learning for
students. And, regular exposure to the Web may help to increase
comfort level with computers. Several of the student comments
through the mid-semester course evaluation touched on this aspect.
noted, "I'm still a little scared to use them [Web sites] on my own,
an industry where computers are essential, I think that as you keep
demonstrating, I'll get over my fear." Another student was even more dire
ct: "I hate computers and the Web interests me, so it helps me
fear and hatred towards computers. It makes computers fun to play with."
The Web demonstrations also provide a link between the real world and the
classroom. Students valued this exposure to companies' actual
activities: "As the industry moves along the information highway, so
should we!" "It is interesting to see the wide range of things that can
done on the Internet. Besides, computers are becoming more and more
important so I think it's essential to be exposed to them."
Although Web penetration is low, interactive advertising merits coverage
in an introductory advertising class. The challenges the Web faces in
building its audience numbers are not dissimilar from those experienced
other specialty media that receive regular attention from advertising
instructors. In addition, the advertising trade press carries weekly
reports of advertising agencies who are establishing a presence on the
Familiarity with the Web may provide students with a way to differentiate
themselves in the search for internships and jobs.
Ideally, students in the advertising major would continue to receive
exposure to the Web and other interactive media as a component of
courses. Unfortunately, the technology to allow this is not readily
available at this university: the computer lab dedicated to advertising
classes is not networked into the university system, and most of the
technology classrooms are reserved for larger classes. Currently,
students with a strong interest in interactive advertising are either
directed to independent study with interested faculty or to courses in
other parts of the university. If more students become interested in
Web through the demonstrations in the introductory class, the program
faculty may wish to consider offering an occasional special topics class
related to interactive advertising. Such a class could explore both
positive and negative aspects of the Web as an advertising medium,
beyond the simple demonstrations appropriate for the introductory
COMM 320 -- Spring 1995
Computer Use Questionnaire
1. How often do you use your computer account on the university system?
(By this, I mean the account that gives you access to e-mail,
the university Gopher, the Internet, etc.)
Several times a week 13
Once a week 10
Every few weeks 13
2. If you do use your account, which of the following functions do you use
regularly, that is, most/every time you use the computer? (Mark all
NETNEWS user groups 8
3. If you don't use your account, which of the reasons below best explains
why you don't use your computer account?
No access to a computer with the necessary
Have access to a computer, but don't know
how to use the necessary software 13
No interest in using the functions associated
with the account 5
Hardware problems (1)
No time (3)
4. Have you ever checked out a site on the World Wide Web?
Appendix 1 (continued)
5. If you have checked out a Web site, which of the reasons below best
explains what motivated you to access the Web for the first time?
Was interested in one of the sites demonstrated
in this class 15
Had already tested out Web sites prior to this
Friend's recommendation (3)
6. If you have checked out Web sites, how often do you access the Web?
Several times a week 1
Once a week 8
Every few weeks 13
7. If you haven't accessed the Web, which of the reasons below best
explains why you haven't checked out any Web sites?
No access to a computer with the necessary
Have access to a computer, but don't know how
to use the necessary software 18
No interest in the World Wide Web 6
No time (11)
Forget to look (1)
Don't know site addresses (1)
8. Which of the following kinds of computer software do you feel
comfortable using? (Check all that apply.)
Word processing packages
(WordPerfect, Word, etc.) 63
Spreadsheet programs (Excel, Lotus, etc.) 14
Statistical packages (SAS, SPSSPC+, etc.) 1
9. Finally, do you have your own computer here at school?
Mac (5); Mac with modem (3)
IBM/compatible (3), IBM/compatible with modem (12)
Resources for World Wide Web Users
There are several useful sources for finding advertising and marketing
sites on the Web:
Advertising Age publishes a weekly section on "Interactive Media &
Marketing." This section regularly carries announcements of new home pages
as well as occasional reviews of Web sites.
Adweek also carries information on Web sites, and publishes a quarterly
report on interactive media. The magazine has sponsored several
on interactive advertising, some of which have been offered to
a reduced price through American Academy of Advertising Industry
Entertainment Weekly magazine carries regular listings of media- and
entertainment-related Web sites.
Yahoo, a directory function on Netscape, lists Web sites in a wide range
of categories, including Business, News, Magazines, Marketing, and
INET-MARKETING is a newsgroup for people who are interested in marketing
products and services over the Internet and the Web. It's a useful
for Web sites, and for keeping up with the challenges facing would-be
electronic marketers. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to
[log in to unmask] . In the body of the message, write SUBSCRIBE
INET-MARKETING <FIRST NAME> <LAST NAME> . (Omit the brackets and fill in
your own first and last name.)
Levine, John R. & Baroudi, Carol (1993). The Internet for
dummies. San Mateo, CA: IDG.
Making moves on the Internet. (1995, January 9). Advertising
Age, p. 22.
Neubecker, David (1994, Oct. 29). Games -- Where the world of
marketing and entertainment collide. Presentation at Adweek's VISTA
Conference on Interactive Advertising, New York.