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Reaching the online industry's tipping point

Anyone familiar with the concept of the 'Tipping Points' will find something very familiar indeed when they look around the internet marketing industry, writes Danny Meadows-Klue.

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If you ever wanted to see a 'Tipping Point' from the inside then now is the time to take a look at online.

2004 will be the year everything comes together. Online has already bounced back from the doldrums of 2001 with the market doubling in size from 1% of UK ad spend to 2% in little more than a year. We've moved from being smaller than cinema to double its size and now that we have half the spend of the radio industry, no marketer can afford to ignore you. The industry's tipping point has happened.

And what fuelled this is the product of the internet's broader tipping point in audiences and access passed in the late Nineties. With 5,000 new users joining the UK net community every day, 5,000 more converting to broadband, the majority of homes connected and the net established as the only daytime medium, the fuel that drives us is flowing as fast as ever. Finally marketers have started to realise that in the world of media overload and TV fragmentation, online is the new way to communicate. And with advertising responsible for the funding behind pretty much every free-to-air website, that's great news for UK internet industry, and above all our viewers.

From the IAB's perspective, 2004 is also the year it comes together. We spent the mid Nineties establishing the key issues, the late Nineties building standards and best practice, 2000-2001 pulling together research to form our Knowledge Bank, and the last 18 months cementing the marketing strategy and creating unity in a historically fractured landscape. Now you will see the fruits of this. The industry's first ever advertising campaign has now launched, the IAB magazines have started publication, our national branding forum launches in January, our weekly events accelerate further and our regional marketing forums have started up and down the country. IAB training seminars continue weekly and the call centre has officially opened for business -- all in a bid to plug the knowledge gap in the entire industry. It's the culmination of several years of work and careful planning but when you realise every university lecturer now has our materials the-long term vision is clear.

In 2004, we will see adspend and audiences reach record levels. Audience time and frequency of use will rise sharply and broadband take up will increase. Smart marketers will use solid brand metrics to prove their campaign's effectiveness and this will spurn further investment. We will see the rollout of the new IAB advertising package of six key formats across Europe with thousands of websites changing their designs making online even easier for media planners. These higher impact spaces will give creative directors a greater canvass and allow their clients greater impact. We may even also see online measured in a comparable way to other media, rather than always being under the microscope to prove its worth in ways other channels are never challenged over.

I also hope we'll see even more companies turning to the IAB as a guide to marketing the industry. The internet remains a complex medium to sell because of the very diversity of choice and the wealth of options for advertisers we have all created. In the past our message has been lost because of this breadth. Under the IAB's leadership I hope we can unite and realise that every pitch for every pound of investment, is not being fought against other online offerings, but against the traditional channels that take 98%of media budgets. Marketers are missing out by not following their audiences into online. If we can get that message across in 2004 then this will be the landmark year for all of us. We have a great story to tell, its time to shout about it. The industry has grown up in a remarkably short space of time and marketers from all sectors are now racing to get on board.

Danny Meadows-Klue is chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. For copies of recent IAB training materials ask for the Knowledge Bank -- an index that lists its key publications -- by contacting the IAB.

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