Media buyers still unsure if web advertising delivers

It’s easy to argue that the key catalyst in generating further growth in advertising activity on the Internet rests with the growth in the Internet audience itself.

But if the Internet is to become a mainstream ad medium, media buyers and account handlers must be confident in pro posing use of the the Internet to advertising clients.

But just how positive are these key players? Our research reveals mixed feelings

Current use of Internet advertising is very low – a mere 16 per cent of the top 500 brands have used it to date, accounting for a tiny 0.4 per cent of the average media spend.

Among media planners and buyers who have used the Internet, “the advertiser” ranked as the most important factor in the decision. This suggests that in many cases agencies are reacting to client pressure to use the Internet, rather than embracing it themselves.

On a positive note, agencies already using Internet advertising estimated their total agency spend in the medium for the coming year would grow from 97,700 to 176,000 – a major uplift.

According to executives responsible for planning media for the top 500 brand accounts currently not using the Internet, an additional seven per cent of these brands are reported as “very likely” to begin some form of online advertising activity this year. Again, a significant uplift from the 16 per cent which already have a toe in the water.

It’s hard to tally these findings – based directly on talking to those in control of ad spending – with some of the more wildly optimistic predictions of exponential growth in UK online advertising spend.

But there is a general optimism among the media-buying community about the Internet. Many see it as “a medium of the future” and are well-disposed towards in cluding it in the media mix, if they do not do so already.

Even so, the novelty value of the Internet is wearing off. Agencies are beginning to compare the accountability of the Internet with the traditional media of TV, press and out door – sometimes unfavourably.

The survey shows media planners want more research and data from site owners on the audiences they are selling. And they would prefer to deal in consistent, industry-wide data measures, as they do in other traditional media.

Also, agency staff generally are looking for more research into how the medium can be made to work creatively.

If these issues are tackled with some vigour, then we can look forward to media planners emerging as key proponents of a buoyant medium.

But if their concerns are not addressed, media planners and agencies collectively may yet emerge as a costly bottleneck for the sector – reducing the predicted flood of ad spend into the medium to a mere trickle.

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