Digital can rise more with brand involvement

Amidst the doom and gloom of the recession, glimmers of hope appeared to be cracking through this week when the main media networks revised forecasts to show improvement in ad spend next year. Online ad spend was widely predicted to experience further growth, and the increasing, as opposed to decreasing, figures over the last few years speak volumes.

Joe Fernandez

It’s no secret that online has been piquing more interest over the years as the sophistication of the industry continues to raise eyebrows. In the UK, GroupM says it is the only media format to have seen increased spend year-on-year between 2008 and 2009.

Internet and mobile advertising is set to rise 2.7% year on year for 2009 to £3.4bn and rise again in 2010 by 7.3% to £3.7bn.

Core to this has been the work put in to ensure that the digital marketing industry addresses the concerns of the discerning public.

As Stephen Haines, UK commercial director for Facebook puts it in his guest column this week, “technology has changed the volume and speed of our communications… the question now for marketers is how to harness the way people use the internet to build brands and engage with people in a meaningful way.”

Yet, according to research conducted by Marketing Week sister magazine New Media Age, major brands are ignoring the benefit of online tools such as Twitter despite their potential advantages for reaching customers.

Part of the reason for this is that they simply fail to understand how it can serve their interests well, or they fear a backlash from audiences who don’t want the perceived interruption. – it can’t help that Facebook is facing so much flak over its own privacy changes.

It’s worrying that 370 of the 500 brands given Superbrand status don’t feel the need to use such online technology. But, it’s also evidence, if any were needed, that there is still much education needed to really give the digital industry a boost to be top of mind for senior marketers.

Whilst some, such as Nokia’s departing UK marketing director, Will Harris are happy to say digital is now at the core of their marketing approach, others remain sceptical about what digital activity will actually achieve without being seen as an irritant.

Crucial to getting this right will be the participation from the industry in helping to educate the public about digital marketing and how they can control how they interact with it.

This week saw The Information Commissioner’s Office launching an online consultation on a new draft code of practice which will provide organisations with a practical and common sense approach to protecting individuals’ privacy online .

Brands must play a role in this to ensure that consumers are fully aware of their rights at every stage of the interaction with the ad. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be as easy to avoid an online ad as it is to turn over in the offline world.

After all, if investment in online and mobile marketing is to continue climbing at a rapid pace, it must be able to show it is in the best interests of the consumer, and it must be able to prove it has a decent return on investment.

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