Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Across Digital Lines

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Across Digital Lines

Article excerpt

Online advertising's position at the top of the spending tree is not as clear-cut as it may seem.

Another notch on the bedpost, and this time it's telly. Online adspend in the first half of this year hit pounds 1.75bn, comfortably ahead of TV at pounds 1.64bn, and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) can't resist bragging about its conquests. The media industry has never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and, as you might expect, for every bit of triumphalist gloating from the digital industry there's been harrumphy crying of foul from the traditional end of the pitch.

As ever, there's no simple truth. Some of the criticisms levelled against the IAB are a fair cop, and others reveal a degree of denial that speaks volumes about the many ways in which digital is still underestimated as a medium.

So, as a public service, today I'm going to have a go at both sides - partly to try to get to the truth that lies between, and partly because it's the most efficient way of annoying the maximum number of worthy people.

The first brickbat thrown at the IAB is that classified advertising is included in the digital count, and it's not therefore a like-for-like comparison with TV. This point was originally made when online overtook press, and it's a fair one. The value of total press display is still greater than online without classified, and TV is pounds 272m bigger.

Martin McNulty, client services director at online agency Trafficbroker, was quoted on Sky News as saying: 'Long the protagonist on the global advertising stage, TV is rapidly becoming the bit part.' McNulty's hubris seems premature, and the silo in which he lives makes him an easy target for Thinkbox's marketing director, Lindsay Clay, who says this 'misses (online and TV's) complementary relationship'.

However, Thinkbox then takes a turn to throw a poorly aimed stone. 'It is interesting, but meaningless, to sweep all the money spent on every aspect of online marketing into one big figure and celebrate it,' rejoins Clay. Slightly patronising, but she may be right. Let's strip back the numbers another way. The biggest online player, Google, is almost 60% bigger in ad revenue than ITV, which tops TV's charts. And yes, that's just in the UK.

Should search be counted separately? If it were, it would still be bigger than regional press, direct mail, national newspapers, classified press, outdoor and so on. It is bigger than every one of the Advertising Association's media categories - except for television.

So there is an argument for this delineation. …

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