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New Media Focus

By The Drum, Administrator

August 30, 2005 | 8 min read

At the end of 2004, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) research identified that 27 million UK residents were hooked up to the World Wide Web at work or in their homes. Research also revealed that these net surfers are spending more time online than listening to radio, reading newspapers or going to the cinema, with over half of them spending, on average, 74 minutes connected up each day.

In spending so much time online, people’s lives are changing. The people who, five years ago, were just using the internet for e-mail, are now using it to check the latest news, do research, be entertained or even find their soul mates, and that’s not to mention shopping. The IAB has also announced that 16 million of us, in the UK alone, are now shopping online – a stark contrast to a few years ago, when confidence in online security was low enough for the majority of the interactively active to be put off purchasing via the web.

“Take a look at how people are using the internet these days,” instructs Ben Hatton, managing director of Liverpool’s Rippleffect. “It has become a way of life; research, entertainment, communication, and more importantly, shopping, are all being embraced online.”

Gone are the days when being internet-fluent was for the socially-challenged, as Paul Mallet, managing director of Leeds-based Swamp, suggests: “The real change is that ‘normal’ people are online; they’re shopping online, they’re researching online, they’re chatting online, they’re sending stupid things to each other online and the numbers and usage levels are increasing.”

With this in mind, and with further encouraging figures being released by key industry organisations, like the IAB, are clients investing enough in the medium?

“The market is generally very buoyant,” comments Tony Foggatt, managing director of Manchester-based Code Computer Love, “digital media as a discipline is continuing to grow as clients increasingly realise the importance of the role it can play in the overall mix. In parallel with this, clients’ requirements have changed considerably over the past five years – from ‘we need a website’ to ‘we need an online element to our marketing strategy’.”

Consolidating this opinion, Mallet adds: “Some of our clients are investing heavily in new media. Umbro, for example, has taken the majority of its above-the-line budget and put it into online spending.”

Perhaps the reason for new media’s rapid growth and immense success is in its measurability. Whereas marketeers would, in years gone by, have been faced with the challenge of convincing board members of the need to invest further in new media, comprehensive results and feedback have gone a long way to eradicating the need to do so.

Dave Moore, head of new media at Sheffield-based full service agency Dig For Fire, says: “There are a growing number of examples of digital campaigns that generate clear return on investment over other media and this is reducing the need to have to justify increased investment to the rest of the board.

“Board members are also becoming savvier about digital media as it impacts on their own life and not just the people at the edges. Digital media is now mainstream.”

As Hatton explains, seeing genuine return on investment is a key contributor in attracting further online spends. “It depends on what the client is looking to get back from their site, however, if it’s a site that’s geared towards driving traffic or creating sales, it won’t take long to discover just how effective the site has become. And if there’s real ROI, most clients will soon inject further investment. However, most companies, especially the bigger ones, will already have a solid understanding of what can be achieved through new media and its importance to the marketing mix.”

Foggatt adds: “It’s a highly measurable medium which makes justification very easy, and with technologies like Dynamic Logic you can even measure the impact on brand awareness – something we hadn’t been able to do before.”

Recent statistics identified a six per cent rise in brand awareness for businesses that integrated on- and offline marketing. While it appears that the majority of firm’s are starting to invest in new media, Chris Tomlinson, who heads up Birmingham-based WebXpress, believes “spend remains disproportionate to the results that can be achieved.”

With a few words of advice, Foggatt says: “Many clients need to wake up to the fact that consumers’ brand perceptions are being altered by the internet, with the latest research showing that consumers are actively switching their brands in their online and offline purchases as a result of using the internet.

“A 30 second TV ad may be very effective but a 30 second TV ad supported by a microsite, generating a further five minutes of interaction and immersion in a product or brand, is going to move a percentage of these viewers much further along the buying process and have a significant effect on the overall success of the campaign.”

As a client, once you’ve decided to invest in creating, revitalising, or updating your current site, choosing an appropriate new media partner can be a laborious task. Perhaps foolishly, Adline decides to crack open an old, familiar chestnut – should a client go to a new media specialist or is it better to find a full service agency that provides new media within its offering?

Moore, batting for the full service team, argues: “As an integrated agency, Dig For Fire has the benefit of deploying thinking on a brief from many different perspectives, and the client often gains a lot more from this.

“With more companies reducing their in-house resource and outsourcing it instead, it can be hard working with many different agencies. An integrated agency with one or two points of contact can be a much more attractive option for marketing teams.”

If it is hard, one of Swamp’s biggest clients is doing its best to convince us otherwise. Mallet says: “In our work with Heinz, we work as part of a team of up to seven agencies; ATL, sales promotion, PR, direct mail, packaging, online and media planning and buying. All agencies receive the same brief and and we then work to produce ‘headline’ campaign ideas. These can be driven by any agency. Once the client is decided on the overall direction we then work together to produce different components of the campaign.”

Matthew Williams, a director at Sheffield-based Quba New Media, agrees that being a specialist and working alongside other agencies can be hugely productive, but only if new media is not simply ‘bolted on’ to a campaign or ahead of other marketing activity. He comments: “Digital agencies need to be seen as a long term partner by clients and one that they invest time in bringing on board. In addition it is vital that clients nurture good working relations between their incumbent marketing and advertising agencies and their digital agency so that they work together as a team.”

“Ultimately, it’s the client’s responsibility to ensure that their digital activity is effectively integrated with the rest of their marketing activity. A good client will take the time to bed their digital agency in, explaining their brand values, providing supporting graphics and imagery and allowing access to relevant market research.”

Tomlinson has observed two trends in recent years on the specialist versus full service debate. The first is that near full service operations, or in other words, agencies that have everything but new media in their arsenal, are approaching digital independents, like WebXpress, to help them out. “There\'s always a danger, for traditional agencies, that somebody will come in with a complete full service offering, including new media, and try and lure away their clients. We’re, therefore, getting a lot of work through traditional agencies, which are using us to patch over the digital hole in their full service offering.”

Explaining his second observation, Tomlinson adds: “A number of traditional agencies are opting to acquire small new media companies, sometimes just one- and two-man bands, in order to complete their full service offering. For too long, traditional agencies have had their heads buried in the sand, viewing new media as a threat, which is why they’re now looking to acquire or jump into bed with a new media specialist.”

The debate of regarding the most fruitful way of working will inevitably roll on, although, in the end, it probably boils down to preferences of the marketeer. All that perhaps matters is that online is implemented, like all other parts of a firm’s marketing activity, with due care and attention, and as such, allows a consistent message to be communicated to consumers, regardless of the medium they are using. William’s colleague, Rob Wilmot, technical director at Quba, said: “We are seeing more and more that brand custodians seem to be getting to grips with the fact that they have to treat the internet as a continuation of their message.

What is irrefutable, however, is the role that online must play, both now and going forward, if firms want to tap into an online shopping market that was worth in excess of £17billion in 2004, and is undoubtedly set to grow even further over the next few years.

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