School for radio ads and end to online ‘Vegas strip’ on Core Media’s wishlist

Agency’s Outlook16 report forecasts 10 per cent growth in advertising spending in 2016

Alan Cox: ‘Some sites resemble a Las Vegas strip, they’re so cluttered with ads.’ photograph: conor mccabe

Alan Cox: ‘Some sites resemble a Las Vegas strip, they’re so cluttered with ads.’ photograph: conor mccabe


What should the Irish media and marketing industry do next? Micropayments for news articles, shorter online video ads and a more modern way of measuring television audiences are among the recommendations of Core Media, the largest ad-buying agency group in Ireland.

Advertising spending will grow 9.9 per cent in the Republic this year, after a recession-ending 4.4 per cent lift in 2014 and a better-than-expected 7.8 per cent increase last year, Core Media says. That’s the good news in the group’s Outlook 16 report, due to be circulated this week.

Core’s forecast for total spending of about €915 million this year still puts the market some way behind the just under €1.2 billion recorded in 2007, but the money is flowing in the right general direction, with the recovery supported by “step-changes in business and consumer confidence”.

But there is more the industry can do to improve its revenue performance and the related business of what it offers consumers. Online advertising is predicted to surge 23 per cent this year, but some media owners are at risk of losing their long-term digital audiences by flooding their online properties with intrusive ads, says Core Media chief executive Alan Cox. “Some sites resemble a Las Vegas strip, they’re so cluttered with ads,” he says. It is a “major concern” that media owners are jeopardising their long-term value in the quest to hit quarterly numbers.

The trend is one of the factors in the rise of ad blocking software, Cox says, and while some publishers are taking steps to lock out site visitors who block ads, they should also create “a more respectful” media environment.

Online video ads and the ad breaks on broadcasters’ digital players are too long, he adds.

“Some broadcaster players have seven ads in one online commercial break, which is exceptionally intrusive in such an intimate, lean-forward viewing experience.”

The advertising agencies that create campaigns need to realise that a 30-second ad that is fine on a television set will “drive some viewers demented” if they are watching on a laptop or mobile device.

Price pressure

But habits are changing. A study by Core’s research company Ignite shows children are now watching more video online than on television, while Google-owned YouTube now commands 35 minutes of adult attention per day, making it the second most-viewed channel in Ireland behind RTÉ One, he says.

At the moment there is no method to measure and analyse the total audience for a particular programme across both television and online. Industry body TAM Ireland is working on devising such a unified system, but it may be some years before it becomes fully operational. Combining television and online research is “fraught with technical difficulties”, says Cox, who thinks Google should be invited into the conversation.

Ireland’s music radio stations were branded “safe and generic” in last year’s outlook, but this year Cox confines his criticism to a lack of creativity in radio ad breaks.

“One of the medium’s advantages, its cost effectiveness, has worked against it with the ease of production leading to a glut of ads of a lower standard,” says Cox. Core is calling for the radio industry to set up an annual two-week school for commercial radio writing, to “reboot” how copywriters create ads for the medium.

Radio revenue

Many news media companies continue to face the problem of whether to charge for online content, and then how. Cox is excited by the global spread of Dutch company Blendle, which charges micropayments ranging from 20 cent to 99 cent per article.

“Micropayments are something I would like to see experimented with in Ireland,” he says.

But it’s not just news groups that need to move faster to embrace digital opportunities – our cities must do so too. “As long as it’s done tastefully and respectfully,” local authority-led upgrades to Ireland’s out-of-home advertising infrastructure on our main streets and in places like the “Silicon Docks” would benefit everybody, Cox says.

“We want to market our cities as ‘smart’ and it seems highly appropriate that this should be reflected in our advertising sites,” says Cox. “It sends out a visible signal.”