Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

As web ad spend gains on TV, is all advertising created equal?

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

For Broadcast January 09, 2008

According to WPP-owned Group M, UK internet ad spend will overtake TV ad spend some time in 2009. As the world's second-biggest advertising company, WPP knows where advertisers are putting their money.

Of course, internet advertising has been expected to gain the upper hand as Google continues to grow. Web evangelists proclaim that "TV is so yesterday" and that every firm with ad money should feed it into the internet's increasingly powerful contact with consumers.

But while web advertising is growing a lot faster than its TV counterpart, there is much more to learn from Group M's figures than the "internet stomps TV" headline.

Group M estimates that almost two-thirds of internet ad spend is search advertising, leaving the rest to display and classified. For brand advertisers, search is less interesting than the growth rate of display ads online. According to Group M, in 2008 search ad growth will be around 35%, compared with display and classified at around 20%.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are not big players in online display buys today. The target FMCG audience has been slow to come online but that is changing. UK internet use was mostly female for the first time in 2007, and 18 to 35-year-old women are the heaviest users.

As video becomes a larger part of web traffic (it is about 30% already) the FMCG guys get more interested because video is their marketing mother's milk.

As return on investment online improves and agencies and media firms get better at running online campaigns, TV advertising advocates will have more to worry about.

But there's a long way to go with the former and the latter also needs a lot of work. Don't read the last rites for TV quite yet.

Will the changes to ITV's schedule boost viewers?

ITV is revamping its schedule and plans to "own" the weekend with new comedies, dramas and entertainment shows.

ITV director of TV Simon Shaps has announced that News at Ten is moving back to, ah, yes, 10 o'clock, and Corrie and Emmerdale will get some new slots. There will be a feature film on Fridays and Shaps is shifting Dancing on Ice to Sunday, bringing in fresh talent and all kinds of hoopla to glue even bigger audiences to primetime.

Okay, so Shaps is chasing bigger audiences and extra ad money, but is reshuffling the schedule really the answer? Given all the other media alternatives - from YouTube to X-Box and PVR - is all this really going to be countered by reworking the linear listings of the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster?

The scheduler is not dead, but I think that when a show is aired is increasingly less important than the quality of the shows. In a digital world, where time-shifted and on-demand is increasingly a given, the on-air schedule becomes increasingly irrelevant.

Yes, I know ITV needs to maximise its impacts (and these were up last year because of shows such as Britain's Got Talent, The X Factor and the coverage of the Rugby World Cup) so that ITV1 can keep CRR floggings to a minimum. And it is also true that the success of ITV2 in digital homes means ITV is picking up a lot of what some have called the "CRR leftovers".

But shouldn't ITV be watching its balancing act more carefully? It needs to keep those TV ad pounds rolling into its flagship ITV1 channel, but this alone is not the answer. It also needs to be readying itself for the day when the linear TV schedule is less of an issue.

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