Elizabeth Kesses, UK marketing director at Twentieth Century Fox, is one of many senior marketers spearheading the use of the medium. 'Our digital spend has increased. It now accounts for a larger proportion of budget, though this depends on the campaign's target audience,' she says.
Nonetheless, other brands still allocate only a small fraction of media spend to digital. Procter & Gamble, which ramped up its digital spend by 162.89% year on year, still dedicated just 1.14% of its overall media budget to the medium.
Scott Gallacher, Sky's director of online and partner marketing, believes online advertising has reached a tipping point, and the promise of the dotcom boom is finally being realised. 'Online has become key to many businesses; now, you could not imagine using a bank without an online capability and the line between marketing and providing service online has blurred,' he adds.
Despite the rising spend dedicated to online marketing creative, the medium has often been thought of as traditional advertising's poor relation. However, in 2007 a number of brands branched out into more nascent forms of online marketing such as virals and online gaming, while many others moved to invest in their own sites and online applications to get more out of their presence on the web.
Chris Delahunty, digital and new media manager at Virgin Money, believes that although there is creativity in digital, and the investment to support it, 95% of online advertising is still of quite poor quality. 'Many brands - especially those in the financial-services sector - have simply thrown money at digital in the past, but now people are starting to realise the need to innovate,' he says.
Highlights of the 100 online advertisers.
- The credit crunch failed to bare its teeth in the digital arena, and the financial sector retained its position as the biggest-spending category in online advertising. Personal Loan Express remained the UK's top online advertiser, as consumers continued to borrow, pushing personal credit to an unprecedented level.
- British Sky Broadcasting was the top-spending entertainment and media brand as its battle with Virgin Media raged on. The brand also significantly increased its investment in search and affiliate marketing, which is not included in these figures.
- Orange was the highest-spending telecoms brand, increasing its investment in online by 25% year on year to overtake rival 02.
- Npower, 57th in the table, boosted the business sector by bolstering activity in the face of competition from rival British Gas. The former invested £1.5m of its £12m media spend online, while British Gas allocated £1.3m of a £40m total media spend.
- Capitalising on the UK's ever-expanding waistline, Weight Watchers was another big spender. The dieting brand launched dedicated online activity to support its recent above-the-line campaign, which recounted the story of one woman's successful weight loss regime, through the eyes of her husband and friends.
- Microsoft remained the fifth-biggest online advertiser, investing £14.5m. Fellow computer brand Apple invested £1.7m, placing it 49th in the table.
- Of the top 100 online advertisers, 14 dedicated their entire media budget to online advertising. These included Dating Direct, AmericanGreetings.com, Bingos Net and Eloanshop.com
- British Sky Broadcasting was the biggest online advertiser in the entertainment and media sector, despite reducing spend by almost 19% year on year. The company, which is locked in a bitter marketing war against Virgin Media, dedicated just under 10% of its media spend to online.
- News International increased investment in online by more than 270% year on year to top £3m. The company, which owns The Sun and The Times, has put digital at the centre of its strategy.
- Of the top 100 online advertisers, 20 chose to dedicate less than 5% of their total media budget to the medium. These included Ford, Yell, Land Rover and ING Direct.
- McDonald's was the only standalone food brand in the top 100, investing £2.8m of its £37.3m media spend in digital. Health campaigners have expressed concerns that more food brands will invest in online marketing following restrictions imposed on the TV advertising of foods high in fat, salt or sugar.
- Four of the top 100 advertisers dedicated less than 2% of their media budget to digital media. These included Asda (1.9%), Virgin Media (1.83%), Procter & Gamble (1.14%) and Unilever (0.94%).
How data is compiled
Nielsen Media Research already provides advertising expenditure estimates across multiple platforms in more than 40 markets worldwide. In the UK, above-the-line media spend is linked to agency information.
All figures are estimated costs of buying media space, based on factors including rate card, industry discount factors and impression figures.
Data includes online display only, and does not include any online search, sponsored links or affiliate marketing.
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This article was first published on Marketing