The rise of the online marketing empire

A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Internet Advertising Bureau found the money spent on online advertising has overtaken the revenue committed to television marketing campaigns for the first time.

Over the first half of 2009, online spend grew 4.6 per cent compared to a 16.1 per cent decline in television advertising. Here, theEword online marketing assistant Holly O' Boyle explains why the trend is likely to continue.

Monitoring the campaign

Online advertising offers a complete analytical service. Firms can monitor the success rate of campaigns through programmes such as Google Analytics or Google AdWords. You can check the number of clicks through sponsored links and their ilk and every conversion can be tracked and reported.

This option does not exist in television. Unless a campaign has a direct call to action – 'phone this number or visit this website' – there is no real way to instantly measure the success of a marketing blitz.

Targeting the right audience

Television marketing is a bit like throwing a pie at a dartboard. You know that your advertising message – sent out during a particular programme – will hit a key demographic. However, the nature of television advertising means that it will also splatter other viewers who do not fit the targeted audience; individuals with no interest in your products or services.

Case in point, the demographics for television programmes are vague. ITV Media – the advertising arm of ITV – lists viewers in generic categories such as 'young', 'female', 'upmarket' or 'broad'.

'Miss Marple' demographic information

Juxtaposed with targeted online marketing, television adverts can begin to look a little old-fashioned. Online advertising can hit its intended audience with dart-like precision: a banner ad on a niche website, a sponsored link on a popular search term, a Facebook advert on a particular page. These online advertisements are successful because they target users already searching for a related topic, rather than those who share a general interest a particular soap or documentary.

Viewer habits are changing

People are moving away from conventional viewing habits and television advertising is no longer a guaranteed source of conversions. Viewers can watch their favourite show at a time to suit them and the internet has thrown conventional wisdom regarding television advertising out of the window.

The advent of Sky+ allows users to skip past promotional advertisements, while online media services like 4OD and Hulu presents users with substantially fewer adverts.

Channel 4 On Demand

A survey by comScore showed the average American user watched 9.7 hours of online video last month. A record 25 billion videos were watched online during September in the US and the trend towards internet video is similar in the UK.
The growth in the popularity of online video has seen advertisers flock away from conventional television advertising. TV no longer guarantees a ROI.

Online marketing – the sum of its parts

Lindsey Clay, the marketing director for ThinkBox, the marketing group for the main UK commercial television broadcasters, was understandably bullish about the battle between the two mediums. Talking to the BBC, she berates the data for collating the revenue spent on different elements of online marketing, such as SEO, direct mail campaigns and social media strategies.

"The internet is a fantastic technology and home to many different marketing activities that do different things," she said.

"As such, it is interesting but meaningless to sweep all the money spent on every aspect of online marketing into one big figure and celebrate it."

Although, Clay's point of view, I think her comments fail to take in the full picture. The greatest facet of online marketing is its ability to reach different people through different methods. Advertising on the internet allows you to contact the consumer in a number of different ways. Some people may respond better to sponsored links, some users may convert through natural searches. A good online campaign is spread over different mediums and to say that it all shouldn't be all included in the figures displays a lack of understanding of the nuances of good online strategy.

A temporary solution?

Many will suggest the flock to online advertising is a result of the recession and cost-cutting. Indeed, an online marketing campaign is substantially cheaper than a thirty-second spot during X-Factor.

But this is the point. An online campaign has stamina, establishing a brand over the internet and motivating countless conversions. A thirty-second advert is just as likely to motivate someone to put the kettle on as it is to make them dip into their wallet. In six months, a TV advert may be just as memorable as Shayne Ward.