Marketers must move to exploit the UK’s growing digital addiction

An Ofcom review shows that we are spending more time and money than ever on online services, so why is the sector ignored by marketers?

According to Ofcom’s recent delve into our digital consumption (MW August 19), we are a nation of media junkies, spending ever increasing amounts of time and money on our habit. This may be good news for content developers, but in a world of increasing media consumption, marketers are being pressured into competing harder to hit their targets, both in reach and monetary terms.

Total time spent online in broadband households stands at 16 hours a week on average, an eight-fold increase in online usage in the past five years, and with almost 50,000 people a week signing up for broadband in the UK, large numbers of users are enjoying a high-speed internet experience. Broadband is now firmly a mass-market competitor in the media race, offering marketing opportunities unavailable elsewhere.

Yet, as the Internet Advertising Bureau recently noted, while online advertising spend is growing fast, it still only accounts for just over two per cent of total UK ad spend. Of course, some advertisers are beginning to understand that they can do more than just hope for a direct response from their banners: they can build brands online by innovating and associating themselves with high-quality, high-impact content.

More specifically, if Ofcom is right and we are all media addicts, then it is online music that is providing tech-savvy consumers with their virtual fix, driven by high-speed connections that deliver the content ever faster. By aligning themselves with online music services, marketers can connect with a large audience that is both enthusiastic about music and fully engaged with the Web.

Music is already a passion for many people and the internet offers a new way of consuming it. Downloads have grabbed the headlines, but it is the streaming content that is already driving substantial traffic, and in turn delivering commercial opportunities such as digital sales and targeted advertising.

Consumers are going online to listen to radio stations and watch videos and concerts. In the process, they are getting closer to the artists and offering an opportunity for greater emotional association with brands. Highlights of the Reading Festival, for instance, were broadcast on AOL Broadband, giving brands the chance to align themselves with the event.

So online music is an obvious hook for entertainment, media and packaged goods brands in particular, yet only a small percentage of their budgets is spent on internet advertising. The entertainment and media sector makes up about seven per cent of all online media spend, compared with more than 25 per cent for financial services brands. Are they simply wary of change or have they been caught off guard by the sudden success of legal online music content?

Either way, this is an opportunity for media owners to benefit from the growing online addiction, if they can show marketers how to feed it.

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