There are two schools of thought when it comes to how digital advertising will fare in the grip of a recession. On the one hand, optimists see tight budgets accelerating the shift from less measurable traditional media into more targeted digital channels. The pessimists, however, point out that stagnant budgets affect all marketing, even if digital outlets fare better.
Against this backdrop, experts expect marketers will continue to push for new ways to reach audiences through digital channels. Tried-and-true methods like search marketing look to remain stable, while advertisers pay more attention to getting more solid metrics on how consumers were influenced before they type a query into a search box.
That means old school methods like display ads and microsites will come under pressure. Social media looks set to remain on the top of advertisers' agendas, as they look to apply the lessons of their early missteps in the area while adding real measurement to what have been experimental forays to date. As the Internet becomes more social, there will likewise be an acceleration of a move from purely technical implementations to using the Web's emerging social infrastructure to connect on a more human level.
According to researcher eMarketer, online ad spending will climb 8.9 percent next year, from $23.6 billion to $25.7 billion. Back in August, just prior to Wall Street's meltdown, eMarketer predicted that spending would surge 14 percent in 2009. But the economy is now taking its toll on all segments of media. Here is a roundup of how that spending may pan out:
Display ad blues
The Web has moved well beyond its former role as a place where banner ads and microsites are used to support the real meat of the offline marketing. Nowadays, the most high-profile campaigns are centered on the Web. Take "Whopper Virgins," the latest Burger King push from Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The centerpiece is a Web film, which is then spliced into components for traditional media. What's more, the push has relied on the viral buzz of blogs and other digital outlets as much as big-money media buys.
Those type of efforts will put pressure on "traditional" digital efforts like run of the mill banner ads pumped out through ad networks and Flash microsites without any compelling reason for anyone to visit.
Forrester Research expects display ads to come under the scrutiny of tight-fisted marketers uncertain of their effectiveness.
Pricing is expected to rise just 8 percent after several years of uninterrupted, solid expansion. "The financial pressure will be severe," said Dave Morgan, a former AOL executive. "When you take out big chunks of money, it's not just the spend that disappears but also the competition."
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