Nascent Internet advertising business marks successes
Most major Irish advertising creative awards would expect to reel in hundreds of entries but, as web advertising in Ireland is still very much in its infancy, the figure of more than 100 entries for tonight's Internet Advertising Award is very respectable. The last year has seen a change in the attitude of Irish advertisers, with an increasing number of agencies adding the web into the media plan presented to clients.
Web spend, however, is still very low, with even the larger web sites reporting an average client spend of less than £4,000 per month, indicating that web advertising in Ireland is seen as a support for traditional media campaigns.
In the US things have moved on with, for example, a new campaign from Nike presenting an integrated creative strategy. The television advertisement features baseball player Mark McGwire and snowboarder Rob Kingwill and viewers are encouraged to log on to the brand's website to see how the story ends. Nike gets its traditional 30 seconds of exposure plus more direct access to individual consumers.
"From an advertiser's point of view, what is really exciting is that, with the web, you can look at different markets," says Mr Neil Thompson, media director of Chemistry, an independent full service agency within the O&M group. "Advertisements can be targeted directly at, for example, the ex-pat market or the indigenous market or the international market." What continues to make advertisers nervous is the general lack of a measure of effectiveness. Book an advertisement on any mainstream media and there are independently audited figures to tell advertisers exactly how many people might have seen that advertisement.
However, only two Irish web sites are independently audited by the Audited Bureau of Circulation, The Irish Times's ireland.com site and the Belfast Telegraph site. Both offer additional advertising management technology to target and manage campaigns and these give specific day-to day traffic information.
Late last year, Nielsen announced it was to measure Irish web activity and those figures should be available in the next three or four months. This should encourage more advertisers on to the medium.
"It's a hand-holding exercise at the moment," says Mr Barry Bedford, new media director at McConnells. "There's a lot of confusion in the industry with some clients still thinking that, because the web involves technology, they have to go to a specialist firm instead of directly to their agency, and that isn't the case."
Agencies are also encouraging clients to see the full marketing potential of their presence on the web. "Too many companies have sites that are little more than brochures," says Mr Bedford, "and, when that happens, it's up to the agency to encourage the client to make the site interactive, which will ultimately mean more valuable."