Despite Recession, Marketers Expect Growth in Digital

Marketers are always looking for ways to reach consumers. Industry experts see a major opportunity in the digital world, despite the economic downturn.

A Marketing Management Survey conducted this spring by Millward Brown on behalf of Manning Selvage & Lee, New York, and PRWeek, London, revealed that 75% of senior marketers expect spending for new media and online initiatives to increase in the next year. The survey polled 252 U.S. CMOs, vps of marketing, and marketing directors and managers. The study focused on digital and consumer generated media, marketing ethics and the role of public relations in the marketing mix.

According to the survey, while three-quarters of respondents expect an increase in digital budgets, 21% expect them to stay the same and only 4% expect budgets to decrease. On the other hand, advertising budgets appear to be more stagnant: 33% of marketers expect traditional ad budgets to increase, while 48% think they will stay the same and 20% expect a drop.

“These results show us that not only is digital marketing a global capability that marketers must truly embrace for its effectiveness and ROI, it is also a discipline that fares very well in tougher economic conditions,” Mark Hass, CEO of MS&L Worldwide, said in a written statement. “Digital is an advisable investment because of the strong, measurable results it can produce and targeted audiences it can reach, and it’s also one of the more economical options. On the other hand, advertising is more expensive.”

In terms of where marketers expect budgets to be cut first, when cuts are being made, 35% of respondents cited advertising as the most likely budget to be cut, followed by point-of-purchase (29%), public relations (16%) and direct marketing (16%).

According to the survey, consumer generated media continues to make inroads among marketers. When asked which marketing discipline they anticipate being their top priority over the next 6-12 months, nearly three in 10 (28%) mentioned CGM, despite its relative newness as an application. And marketers view CGM as a tool for supporting brand and reputation: More than six in 10 said CGM is important for creating brand awareness (68%), building brands (64%) and being perceived as an innovator (60%). A sizeable proportion of marketers even tie CGM directly to ROI, with 43% saying it is important to sales.

Just last year, most marketers were unwilling to invest in consumer-generated media. Only 12% of respondents from the 2007 Marketing Management Survey said that CGM was very important to their marketing platforms, and just 22% said they were “very willing” to let consumers play a significant role in shaping their marketing programs. This year, if marketers stated they are unwilling to invest in this area it is mostly because the efforts are arduous to measure. Of those who would cut digital from a marketing budget, 46% of those respondents said there is a lack of ROI with digital/WOM and CGM, they are not as effective as other disciplines or they are difficult to measure.

The survey by Millward Brown, Naperville, Ill., was conducted between May 1 and 19, 2008. Results are not weighted.