Time to play ball with the Internet

Sport, online advertising, international client/agency relationships and the fostering of brand loyalty will be among the dominant themes affecting the commercial communications industry across Europe during the coming year.

The event of 1998 will be the World Cup. Hosted by France, it will be of enormous significance to millions of people in Europe and globally and will have a profound impact on all of the communications disciplines.

Sponsorship and integrated communications will be priorities, as will the issue of “ambush marketing”. Contests on the field will be mirrored by those off it. The most notable will be between the sportswear rivals, Nike and Adidas (MW December 4).

1998 will be the year when the long-awaited digital and high definition television (HDTV) revolution spreads to the UK. Consumers here will get their first opportunity to experience almost limitless television choice. This will prompt an escalation in the pace of audience fragmentation and the beginning of real convergence between television, telecommunications and online activities.This changing media scene will continue to transform the work of media buyers. In 1998 they will be called upon for media and marketing advice, far more than planning and buying.

Many international advertising agencies looked beyond the uncharted territory of the Internet for the more immediate benefits of establishing Intra-net and Extranet systems in 1997.These enabled agencies to improve their internal communications and begin to transform the way in which agencies work with clients on an intemational basis.

Those clients who join their agency’s Intranet will see the need for international travel and face-to-face meetings diminish as geography becomes less of a barrier to close day-to-day client/agency working relationships.

In conjunction with videoconferencing, intranets will lead to significant cost savings for clients while allowing them an improved international account and creative management service.

If 1997 was the year of the Intranet, 1997 will be the year when the commercial potential of the Internet begins to crystallise in Europe. US-based new media companies have begun to unlock the long-term value of Websites and online advertising. A number of these commercially-focused operations, among them the dynamic KPE, architect of the Clinton/Gore election site, look well placed to transfer their US experience to the European market in 1998.

Finally, in the coming year, the issue of consumer loyalty to brands will continue to preoccupy agencies and advertisers alike. Agencies will be called upon not just to build brands, but to find new ways to use the tools of commercial communications to ensure that they remain strong to the end of the millennium and beyond.

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