Anybody can advertise anything somewhere on the internet. These advertisements may contain text, pictures, video, sound, interactive graphics or a combination of all of these features. The Internet's primary advantage in advertising is not so much in attracting attention and conveying a brief message (the tasks assigned to traditional advertising media), but lies instead in delivering in-depth, detailed information when initial interest is triggered by conventional advertising. Billboards around the world give URLs for web browsers to directly access the company that is advertising.
At times, and for some markets, the internet can be valuable in attracting initial consumer interest with cursory advertising messages but its real power is the ability to provide almost infinite layers of detail about a product or service, interactively, at the behest of the user.102
The advertising industry has responded to the opportunity and in the US it is estimated that businesses spent $906.5 million for advertising on the internet in 1997.103 Purchases over the internet accounted for $10 billion worldwide in 1997, according to IDC, a US firm that tracks internet spending. A jump to $220 billion is forecast by 2001, and to $426 billion in 2002. Internet commerce is also drawing advertisers even though last year's $940 million in on-line ad spending (estimated by Jupiter Communications LLC, a New York-based Web-tracking specialist) was still dwarfed by the $42 billion generated by television commercials and the $38 billion spent on print campaigns. Jupiter predicts that global internet advertising will generate $5 billion by 2000.104
Unlike other media, the internet does not give advertisers any control over any other content. Far from it, the growth of the weightless economy finances the provision of cheaper access to more users: more potential customers in the global market.