New media spend may have overtaken radio but marketers are failing to grasp its full potential, writes Mark Sweney.
In each of the past two years, advertising on the internet grew in excess of 80% as it leapfrogged cinema in terms of total revenues.
And according to ZenithOptimedia, with pounds 552m being spent on the once-struggling medium in the UK in 2004, it has now overtaken radio too.
However, internet experts claim that further substantial growth could be hampered by a lack of talent to fill positions at agenices, and a poor understanding among some advertisers.
FMCG advertisers have been particularly slow adopters of the medium, according to Guy Phillipson, the recently appointed chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau. Having joined the body from Vodafone, where he was head of advertising, he is able to bring a client perspective to the issue. His own business sector, in contrast to FMCG, has embraced the internet's opportunities more than most.
'There are sectors that absolutely do understand it - some, such as travel, finance and telecoms to anorak proportions - but overall there is an issue,' says Phillipson. 'Retail and automotive are two other sectors that have been quite slow in taking up the opportunities'
Will Harris, chief executive of advertising agency The Bank, and a former marketing director at O2, a heavy online spender, blames the internet industry for not promoting itself enough. 'In the eyes of clients, online has not put itself firmly on the map,' says Harris. 'It is struggling to become mandatory and get onto the media shortlist alongside television, press, outdoor and radio.'
Harris argues that lack of internet use is specific to individual clients, not necessarily sectors. 'Clients get the advertising they deserve,' he says. 'If you are not into online, it is unlikely that agencies will be expected to produce big internet ideas.'
For example, despite the slow take-up of new media by the FMCG industry, brands such as Coca-Cola have embraced the internet from the outset through a string of marketing initiatives, including music download service mycokemusic.com, Coke Auction and, most recently, the multimedia promotion Win A Player, aimed at building on its Football League sponsorship.
However, there are more examples of poor use of the internet. Nissan recently found itself in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which ordered it to target its online campaigns more carefully. This followed complaints about ads promoting Nissan's X-Trail model, one of which showed a man about to pour boiling water in his mouth. This action, the ASA said, could be copied by young people surfing the internet.
Likewise, last year, electronics company Samsung set up a scheme offering free flights via a dedicated website. …